Review: Birmingham Royal Ballet @ Birmingham Hippodrome

ballet-shoesYes I know Birmingham Royal Ballet isn’t actually based in Lichfield, but come on, they’re only just down the road, and anyway, you all shop at Harvey Nicks, right?

Plus BRB’s last triple bill was in my opinion world class, so there’s another good reason to go and see it. And anyway this new triple bill astounded even hardened critics. It should really be called Past, Present, and Future, and believe me this is a show with a futuristic twist, young, explosive, an intellectual workout, but visceral and heart-stopping at the same time.

First offering is Powder, by Stanton Welch, the music Mozart’s clarinet concerto. It’s all the original Olympic games, classical references left and right, a bit old-fashioned, but hey, that’s classical and it’s ballet. Plus there’s lots of new, young, vibrant gym-toned people in it and they’re all half–dressed in swimming trunks and slight wispy frocks. It’s sexy, but poignant too – this is ancient Greece, and these players were dust long years ago. Only Robert Parker, returning king, transcended all, even when totally motionless, his every gesture seeming ultimately considered, sublimely right.

Next came the busy E= MC2, Director David Bintley’s centrally placed new World Premiere. It’s organic, it’s physics, it’s cerebral, but it’s not really about people. The first two movements were reminiscent of his Last Stop at the Penguin Cafe about species extinctions, but it’s hard to get a buzz about excited molecules. However the lighting by Peter Mumford was something else, and the Manhattan Project sequence with its deep gut-churning sound showed us the scientific revolution’s result on Japan as those atomic bombs went off. Plus the shimmering intensity of the last piece, Celeritas2 gave us a new star, Alexander Campbell, proving this new, vibrant company is simply bursting to fly ahead.

But it was the last piece, The Centre and Its Opposite by Garry Stewart that turned out to be the single best thing I have seen so far this year, a miniature post-punk-apocalyptic sci-fi epic that moved from Blake’s Seven through Asimov’s Robotics and Lara Croft to The Matrix III and showed a future when humanity has accessorised itself out of existence and virtual life has taken its consumeristic place. Set in a sort of basement garage with cruel, dysfunctional neon lighting the result drew an awed reaction from the patrons, and I personally was stunned – even now the score (by Huey Benjamin) is still pounding in my head. If I can I plan to go and see it again tomorrow.

Tickets start at £15 up to £30. But remember, you can always buy a £15 ticket and move down to the dear seats – seriously, I nearly always move further back because at the Hippodrome the view’s better the farther back you go. I’m not saying any more. Just go, right? It just might be the start of the next part of your life.

The show runs until Saturday 26th September. For tickets go online at www.birminghamhippodrome.com.

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