mixed bill

Autumn Mixed Bill

Birmingham Royal Ballet

Birmingham Hippodrome


To Pointe start BRB’s Autumn Season at the Birmingham Hippodrome, a triple bill of one-act contemporary ballets full of collaborations and world premieres dramatically performed amidst rain clouds, heartache and glitter balls.

The world premiere of A Brief Nostalgia by Australian choreographer Jack Lister menacingly unfolds to a new score by Scottish composer Tom Harrold. The delicate fragments of our lives and fragility of beauty, pain and memory are but stark shadows to a building storm. Powerfully performed by Birmingham Royal Ballet, this is the fourth ballet in the Ballet Now programme, an initiative with Sadler’s Wells to create new traditions, ballet and talent.

Royal Ballet Sinfonia conducted by Martin Georgiev brings an uneasy atmosphere amongst the grey concrete as the dominant males accentuate their strength in a swirl of female vulnerability. The set design by Thomas Mika is of domineering walls to cast shadows of a memory conjured up by the dancers. Kit Holder, Beatrice Parma, Brandon Lawrence, Delia Mathews, Lachlan Monaghan and Alys Shee to name but a few, express bittersweet emotions increasing the heartbeat of the watchful audience before nostalgia rains down.

The Suit performed by Ballet Black is about married couple Matilda, Sayaka Ichikawa and Philemon, Jose Alves who live in Sophiatown, Johannesburg. Choreographed by Cathy Marston we follow Philemon as he performs his morning routine, mimicked and supported by chorus Isabela Coracy, Marie Astrid Mence, Cira Robinson and Ebony Thomas.

As Philemon gets dressed for work, he races to the bus stop only to realise he has forgotten his briefcase so returns home to discover his wife in bed with Simon, Mthuthuzeli November. Simon flees the scene of the dirty deed leaving his clothes scattered around the marital home where Philemon then tortures his wife by making her carry the discarded clothes and guilt, heavy upon her shoulders, wherever she goes. As Matilda becomes aware that her husband can never forgive, she can bear the guilt no more and takes her own life. In a dramatic finale Philemon is left with nothing but the suit and a heart ripped apart. A moving tragedy resulting in heart wrenching consequences, emotively directed by Cassa Pancho, MBE.

The finale performed by Birmingham Royal Ballet, Nine Sinatra Songs, celebrated the music of Frank Sinatra choreographed by New York based Twyla Tharp. Seven couples relived the 1950s in tuxedos and gowns designed by Oscar de la Renta starting with Momoko Hirata and Cesar Morales to Softly As I Leave You. A theatrical tango coupling sees Samara Downs and Tom Rogers dance to Strangers in the Night, then Celine Gittens and Yasuo Atsuji comedically fumble their way through One for My Baby (and One More for the Road).

Then totally out of place was My Way as we weren’t facing the final curtain and the end was not near, only for it to then be repeated for the finale in its rightful place but losing the gravitas. The standout performance was Delia Mathews and Tyrone Singleton to That’s Life.

Unfortunately Nine Sinatra Songs for me didn’t flow naturally and the dancers seemed uncomfortable and clumsy in heels - less Strictly Come Dancing and more outdated Working Men’s Club. An interesting contrast to end the triple bill but That’s Life.

See the Autumn Mixed Bill at Birmingham Hippodrome until Saturday September 21st, to book tickets go online at birminghamhippodrome.com or call 0844 33850000.

Emma Trimble


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