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Odyssey

Birmingham Royal Ballet Beauty and the Beast 2019

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Very much enjoyed the performance last night at Birmingham Hippodrome. There was a pretty good audience for a Wednesday evening, helped by a large attendance of many Elmhurst students from ‘down the road ‘.  I haven’t seen this ballet since it’s first showing back in 2003 when it didn’t particularly strike me as a keeper. David Bintley has apparently made quite a few changes since then and it certainly kept  me interested with no redundant moments and an uncluttered narrative. It is actually a fairly short piece of just two acts approx 45 mins each. A clear strength to me is the character of the Beast, wonderfully danced last night by Brandon Lawrence. It is to Bintley’s credit that his choreography conveys the emotional anguish and frustration of the creature given the costume ( including face mask). This is a role that makes large demands of its male dancer, with its athletic solos and graceful, attentive partnering of Belle in the pas de deux set pieces. I find Brandon Lawrence a very impressive, expansive dancer, who should soon be joining the ranks of principals. Yvette Knight also gave a strong performance as  Belle, conveying a charming, innocence. There is  less capacity in this role for individual  interpretation, but Knight’s dancing was clean and assured . Lachlan Monaghan also  impressed me in the role of raven with his fast, light dancing in his solos. Bintley’s choreography again cleverly capturing  the avian features here , and in the other animal creatures that populate this ballet. The comic moments are clear winners in this ballet with the behaviour of the wedding guests and the memorable grandma . Another clear strength is the wonderful, sumptuous designs from Philip Prowse, truly a gothic house for the beast . However I found the lighting much too dark in places,  to the detriment of some dances for the corp de ballet. Yet I must note the final scene is beautifully lit with the sunlight streaming through following the beast’s transformation into a prince. An original score from Glen Buhr lacks any memorable motifs but there is interesting orchestration for the percussion which is cleverly interpreted in the choreography.

The company are dancing wonderfully, and this ballet, in the final season of Bintley s tenure as director, reflects what he has achieved in Birmingham.

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Thanks for this warmly enthusiastic review Odyssey- I’m on my way to Birmingham to see it, and this has given me a taster of what to look out for. It’s been a long time since I saw BRB and I’m very excited!

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Posted (edited)

I do hope all posters who saw Beauty and the Beast really enjoyed it and appreciated the company's commitment.  I thought all the casts were well worth seeing, especially if the Beast was played by Tyrone Singleton or Brandon Lawrence.  I haven't seen it this time round but I have seen Tyrone more than once and was reminded of his powerful stage presence two weeks ago at Symphony Hall.

 

I say this because I have just seen the review by Rupert Christiansen in the Mail on Sunday which is both utterly patronising and condescending even by his standards.  He gives the work 3 stars, but then I am convinced that when reviewing BRB he automatically lops off a star for them not being the Royal Ballet. 

 

It is headed 'Carlos needs to tame this Beast' and it continues as follows - edited  highlights only as I don't want to risk being charged with copyright breaches.

 

'Good news for BRB, where it's recently been announced that the great Cuban dancer Carlos Acosta will be taking over in January as director.  But ................. (he) faces a daunting challenge: David Bintley has been in the job for a quarter of a century, and his people and way of doing things are deeply embedded.  .....a large loyal local audience, bags of team spirit in the ranks and a strong repertory of classic and story ballets. 

 

'But new blood and fresh thinking are desperately needed.  ...............Beauty and the Beast demonstrates BRB's strengths and weaknesses'.  It offers pleasant entertainment for family audiences - Bintley is a skilful craftsman and he can turn out eye-candy choreography by the yard - but there's no depth or originality, and sometimes one senses that it's being done by numbers.

 

'...........Momoko Hirata makes a pretty little doll of a Belle, and Cesar Morales dutifully jumps and spins as the Beast; Kit Holder and Rory Mackay prove comic cameos, and the corps keeps in line and time.   

 

'But ballet must aim higher than this if it's to gave a future.   So over to you, Carlos, and best of luck.'

 

Now, I admit that I am not great fan of the piece and Christiansen didn't see the strongest cast but does he have to be so demeaning of the company and Bintley's achievements over the past 25 years?   More to the point, has he attended any of the other programmes presented by the company?  Mind you, this is the man who years ago said  Tyrone's Tybalt lacked presence and menace!  I was at the same performance and, trust me, he didn’t.

 

The thing that got me most was the headline which said the company needs taming and then went on and on to say that, basically, they were all too passive. 

 

No doubt once Carlos arrives and the company starts to get serious investment  (no bad thing in either respect) our Rupert will be leading the pack of Metropolitan critics racing up the M40 to rave about absolutely everything, irrespective of its actual merit.

 

Sorry, just had to get that off my chest.

 

P.s.  reminds me of Clement Crisp who adored Sylvie Guillem when she danced with POB and then loathed her once she joined the Royal Ballet - in reverse obviously.

Edited by Two Pigeons
Spelling and p.s.
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In his (slight) defence, he's one of the very few ballet reviewers from national papers who bothers occasionally to venture outside the M25.

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Am I getting mixed up or is Rupert Christiansen married to a former SWRB dancer? 

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No, not at all.

 

The only critic I can remember who was married to a dancer  was Nicholas Dromgoole who was married to the wonderful Lesley Collier.

 

Mr Christiansen is of a different persuasion.

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Goodness me, Yvette Knight and Brandon Lawrence gave an exceptional performance in Beauty and the Beast at the Lowry tonight.  Their final duet was so beautiful and moving that I was reduced to tears!

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Would that there were  more critics prepared to travel a little more frequently to witness what those of us 'in the sticks' are able to enjoy. 

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