Romantic tale amid the gloom

ravens

Ravens among the animals in BRB's Beauty and the Beast. Picture: Bill Cooper

Beauty and the Beast

Birmingham Royal Ballet

Birmingham Hippodrome

****

PERHAPS it is unfamiliarity with the story, after all, despite a Disney animation, it is hardly up the top end of the fairy tale league tables; perhaps it is the music, which, although pleasing, with moments of drama and moments of tenderness, is hardly memorable, or perhaps more accurately, well known, but this was a production that seemed to lack that spark we have come to expect from BRB.

It was danced beautifully, particularly the lead roles of Elisha Willis as Belle supported by Tyrone Singleton as The Beast, Philip Prowse’s designs were big, heavy and gothic for beastly goings on and light and domesticated for the merchant’s house, Marion Taitwhile Mark Jonathan’s lighting was wonderful to behold, a masterclass of how to light gloom, picking out salient points, highlighting drama and using piercing pencils of light through a haze of smoke.

The music from The Royal Ballet Sinfonia, under conductor Gavin Sutherland, was, as always played to perfection, indeed such is the quality of this orchestra they are only really worth a mention these days if they get something wrong, otherwise you can take it as read they were good.

Leader of the BRB chapter of Hell's Grannies: Marion Tait has cornered the market in cantankerous crones and malevolent mischief-makers. Picture Roy Smiljanic

David Bintley’s choreography gave us comedy, with Belle’s sisters Fière and Vanité, danced by Angela Paul and Samara Downs and Monseieur Cochon, danced by Jonathan Payn, a delight, while Marion Tait as the grandmother is turning the part of cantankerous old crones into an art form.

The dance at the wedding reception where Cochon is to marry . . . one of the sisters, is a comedy delight with the rich merchant, danced by Michael O’Hare getting his shins rapped by grandmamma.

Cochon never does decide who he is going to marry, with the choice really coming down to which of the sisters is likely to cause him the most physical damage if she is rejected.

It gave us drama, passion, poignancy and tenderness and with Bintley working closely with the composer Glen Buhr and designer Philip Prowse from the beginning there is a feeling of completeness, that the three major elements of a ballet are all working in unison.

There are some clever touches, such as the self-pouring jug in the beast’s castle, his self-propelled chair with arms, literally arms, the sort that can embrace you, or the birds decorating the merchant’s house which move as the ravens of the corps are introduced.

All the elements are there, the beautiful damsel, the handsome but hedonistic prince turned into a beast by the Woodsman, danced by Valentin Olovyannikov, to protect the fox, Laura Day, who in turn is transformed into a wild girl, danced by Yaoqian Shang.

We have the beauty, and her two mean sisters, who is at first repulsed and then falls in love with the beast, who is then released from the spell by the Woodsman so that everyone can live happily ever after. The End.

Everything is in place, the elements fit together perfectly, but sadly that certain spark was missing. To 04-10-14.

Roger Clarke

30-09-14

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