triple head

Shakespeare Triple Bill

Birmingham Royal Ballet

Birmingham Hippodrome


A TRIPLE bill with three very different parts; their only connection, marking the 400th anniversary of his death, William Shakespeare.

It opens with Wink, pictured above (picture: Andrew Ross)  a new ballet from Jessica Lang with music by New York Based Polish composer Jakub Ciupinski, a former Birmingham Conservatoire student incidentally.

The ballet is based on Shakespeare’s Sonnets – not all 154, just five of Lang’s favourites, with snatches read by Alfie Jones of Playbox Theatre, Warwick.

Shakespeare had the ability to use language as an instrument with words as his music. You might not understand everything that was written or being said but like music, the sound, the ebb and flow of the words, meant you understood and felt the emotions his words conveyed.

The short readings here though were slow, flat, monotone and emotionless, presumably to fit in with the accompanying movement, which meant any feeling had to come from the music and the 10 dancers, five men and five women in what was a more contemporary dance piece, with different shades of emotion applied to the five sonnets.

The Moor’s Pavane was a more classical piece with music by Henry Purcell arranged by Simon Sadoff. The music, incidentally, includes snatches of one of Purcell’s best known pieces, the Rondeau from the incidental music he wrote for the 1695 revival of Aphra Behn’s play Abdelazer - The Moor's Revenge.

José Limón’s one act tragedy from 194Shakespeare suite9 has a sub title of variations on a theme of Othello, but it does not attempt to give a potted version of the play, just the emotions with Tyrone Singleton as the Moor, Delia Mathews as his wife, Iain Mackay as his treacherous friend and Elisha Willis, in one of her final appearances in Birmingham, as the friend’s wife.

The Bard's characters come together in David Bintley's Shakespeare Suite. Picture: Bill Cooper

Limón uses a pavane and other dances popular in the high renaissance of late 15th and early 16th Italy which gives an interesting dramatic contradiction with 600-year-old fashions and dances set in a contemporary style. Gorgeously sumptuous costumes in Pauline Lawrence’s design by the way, immediately setting date and time.

Mackay, as Iago, has the ear of the Moor, Singleton’s Othello, blackening the name of Othello’s wife and we all know it is not going to end well for Delia Mathews’ Desdemona. Elisha Willis’s Emilia is the only one who gets out of it relatively unscathed although as Desdemona’s maidservant, her mistresses death is a bit of a career killer so she will probably be down the Venice Job Centre tomorrow.

Both pieces were conducted by Philip Ellis with the string section of the Royal Ballet Sinfonia to the fore in Wink – the cello playing in particular was just magnificent.

The final piece was more fun, David Bintley’s Shakespeare Suite dating back to 1999 with music by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn played by the celebrated Colin Towns Mask Orchestra, jazz royalty, conducted by BRB’s Paul Murphy.

This is a contemporary dance take on some of Shakespeare’s best known couples - apart from Mathias Dingman who contents himself the two sides of Hamlet.

We have Petruchio (Lachlan Monaghan) and Kate (Angela Paul) from The Taming of the Shrew, Richard III (Valentin Olovyannikow) and Lady Anne (Arancha Baselga), Iain Mackay with spiky red hair as Macbeth with his lady of the blood splattered hands, danced by Céline Gittens

Bottom (Kit Holder) and Titania ( Laura Purkiss) make an appearance from A Midsummer Night’s Dream while Elisha Willis is promoted from maidservant to Desdemona  to Tyrone Singleton’s Othello, and Jamie Bond and Jenna Roberts gave us Shakespeare’s and perhaps the world’s best known lovers, Romeo and Juliet.

An upbeat finale to a varied and enjoyable evening of dance. To 25-06-16.

Roger Clarke




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