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Birmingham Royal Ballet - Munich - April 2012

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BRB gave two performances of a triple bill comprising Checkmate, Take Five and The Dream at the National Theatre in Munich this week.


I’ve never been to this theatre before and walking into the auditorium brought gasps of amazement at its simplicity and beauty. It really is a breath-taking auditorium. There’s a gorgeous promenade area on the first floor that is quite ornate with fabulous chandeliers. It is definitely worth exploring at the interval.


When I first saw the makeup of the programme, if I am honest I did not think it would flow, but I am very pleased to say that it did. The stage is enormous and all three pieces looked fabulous in its huge expanses.


Checkmate provided an intense and thought-provoking start to the evening. We had two terrific performances with Vicky Marr and Samara Downs as the Black Queen and Iain Mackay and Matthew Lawrence as the Red Knight. Both Queens were vicious but very sensual and it was easy to see how the Red Knight was fooled by her and betrayed his “side”. Checkmate was warmly received by the audience.


I love Take Five with its fast footwork and wit. Again we were treated over the two evenings to two super performances. The enormous stage gave the dancers a chance to really take hold of this piece and they did that with gusto. I particularly enjoyed Callie Roberts as the first girl in one cast and James Barton in Four Square – he was so fast and precise he was enthralling to watch. It always fascinates me how the same choreography can look so different on different dancers. Elisha Willis and Robert Parker gave out an enormous energy in Two Step while Celine Gittens and Tyrone Singleton were somehow more languid. Both couples were wonderful. The jazz quartet played superbly.


The Dream is one of my favourite works and one of the main reasons that I wanted to attend these performances, and I was absolutely not disappointed. Joe Caley and Elisha Willis were super as Oberon and Titania on the second evening. James Barton was magical as Puck. The Lovers at both performances had loads of fun without ever overacting and the fairies were superlative. The Munich audience were treated to Robert Parker performing Bottom on Wednesday evening. Has Bottom ever had more energy and fun – a lovely performance (but never over the top).


The highlight of the performances for me though was The Dream on Tuesday evening with Nao Sakuma and Chi Cao doing the honours as Titania and Oberon, ably assisted by Matthias Dingam as Puck. Jonathan Caguioa gave a lovely warm performance as Bottom. The whole performance was touched with magic dust. Nao and Chi just inhabited the roles and their dancing was superlative. Chi’s scherzo was scintillating and the reconciliation duet was breathtaking – I had an enormous lump in my throat by the end. It is a performance that I will never forget and I would guess that many of the audience felt the same way listening to the applause and cheers.


Overall, the Munich audience gave BRB a very warm reception that must have thrilled the cockles of the Company’s heart.


Just as a footnote – we did not spend our entire time in the theatre and Munich is a very attractive city to walk around with lots to see and do. We particularly enjoyed the wonderful cakes in the Luitpold Café only 5 minutes from the theatre. Our waiter wondered why more people from the UK did not visit his lovely city and I must say I don’t know what the answer to that one is. I want to go back there!!

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