When Birmingham Royal Ballet mounts a new production they think big, and this colourful crowd-pleasing blockbuster of a show, co-produced with Houston Ballet Foundation, is one of their biggest ever.
From first to last this is a show on the grandest scale, and it’s all about spectacle no matter how many or how few dancers are on stage at any moment.
Right from the ravishing opening scene as giant billowing draperies recreate the terrifying power of massive ocean waves breaking on a remote island shore to the final celebratory dances of all nations, (up to and endearingly including our own morris dancers in a witty local reference) the spectacle never lets up. Add in a Sally Beamish’s score powerfully delivered by the Royal Ballet Sinfonia under the baton of Koen Kessels and you’re in business, big time.
In addition, The Tempest’s Elizabethan masque qualities allow BRB Director David Bintley’s full scope to honour the magical spirit of the original play on this 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.
Plus it’s got a top-notch cast too, packed endearingly with BRB’s much-loved home-bred stars. Our own dear Iain Mackay heads up the action as deposed Duke of Milan, the magician Prospero, cast adrift to seek the safety of a barren island by his scheming brother Antonio (Dominic Antonucci), who now shows up shipwrecked accompanied by his fellow conspirators Alonso (Michael O’Hare) and Sebastian (Lewis Turner).
Jenna Roberts is delightful as Prospero’s naieve daughter Miranda, while Joseph Caley is perfect as Alonso’s son Ferdinand who “changes eyes” with her as they fall in love. Plus Matthias Dingman flies with exquisite aplomb as the spirit Ariel, in fact it has to be said the flying sequences throughout are astounding.
So – comedy, spectacle, amazing visuals, one of the most touching love stories in the dramatic canon, in fact, it’s got the lot.
Even more poignantly The Tempest is Shakespeare’s last play, in which like Prospero who renounces magic at the end of the play, he can be seen as saying farewell to his audiences in one of the loveliest English dramas of all time.
The people sitting next to me had never been to the ballet before but were loving it, and guess what, they plan to come again. This Tempest is fully in the great Shakespearean tradition with love, comedy, villainy and above all, entertaining spectacle. Give it a try.
The Tempest runs at Birmingham Hippodrome until Octobe 8. For tickets phone the box office on 0844 338 5000 or go online at www.birminghamhippodrome.com.