BWW Review: SHAKESPEARE TRIPLE BILL, Birmingham Royal Ballet, June 2016
The Birmingham Royal Ballet's Shakespeare celebrations continue this week as they conclude their Birmingham season with a Shakespeare Triple Bill, consisting of Jessica Lang's new Wink, José Limon's The Moor's Pavane and David Bintley's The Shakespeare Suite. Three contrasting dance styles and very different interpretations of Shakespeare's work combine to emphasise his enduring broad appeal, as well as the versatility of the Birmingham Royal Ballet dancers.
Jessica Lang's Wink takes five of Shakespeare's sonnets and reproduces their themes within as contemporary ballet. The title is taken from the first line of sonnet 43, 'When most I wink, then do mine eyes best see', prompting questions of sleep, death and perception. A winking, flickering aesthetic is maintained throughout, as the dancers rotate ten large panels with contrasting black and white sides. This mesmeric, constant undulation is also reflected in Jakub Ciupinski's score, with its driving rhythm reminiscent the iambic pentameter.
Lang's physical, poetic choreography creates a stunning showcase for the dancers, packed with spinning lifts and neat, quick leaps. Male pas-de-deux are very much in the vogue at the moment, yet Lang's choreography (performed by Brandon Lawrence and Lewis Turner) has a tenderness and attention to detail that marks it out from the competition. Delia Matthews impresses with flawless technique and steely strength.
Brandon Lawrence shines in a solo set to sonnet 43, read by Alfie Jones of Playbox Theatre, Warwick. Combining gorgeous fluidity, powerful jumps and eloquent gesture, his evocative performance is the highlight of Wink.
In The Moor's Pavane, subtitled Variations on the theme of Othello, José Limon uses a courtly pavane to distil Shakespeare's Othello into a 20 minute study of intrigue and jealousy. The Moor's Pavane is refreshing in its simplicity, stripped of the displays of technical prowess so common in modern dance. This simplicity demands outstanding acting which Birmingham Royal Ballet demonstrate in this, their first production of the ballet.
Tyrone Singleton is captivating as the Moor, portraying growing suspicion and consuming jealousy with intense stares and powerful physicality. Delia Matthews is graceful and innocent as The Moor's Wife. Iain Mackay and Elisha Willis give similarly convincing performances as the Moor's Friend and His Wife, finding ample opportunities to share sly, sideways glances. All four imbue the stately choreography of the pavane with drama and intimacy, conveying the passion and resentment that fizzle beneath this courtly façade.
This fantastic triple bill concludes with David Bintley's The Shakespeare Suite, set to music by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn. Accompanied by the magnificent Colin Towns' Mask Orchestra, The Shakespeare Suite brims with the life, fire and sensuality of jazz music. The audience are swept up on wave of pure joy, which is evidently share by the dancers.
Bintley's modernised interpretation depicts famous Shakespearean characters as the mavericks and renegades of society. The Macbeths (Iain Mackay and Celine Gittens) are punks, breaking the rules and taking fate into their own hands. Gittens is in her element, with astonishing flexibility and a confident, cruel smile. Mathias Dingman is achingly cool as Hamlet, the original showman, relishing the carefree jazz beats with drumming fingers and exuberant leaps. Kit Holder and Laura Purkiss are hilarious as Bottom and Titania. Fuelled by champagne, their comic romp encapsulates the heady, crazed spirit of A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Packed with love, hate, jealousy and despair, the Birmingham Royal Ballet's Shakespeare Triple Bill is Shakespeare at its most engaging and powerful. Contemporary and relatable, this is the perfect introduction to Shakespeare for any novice. The Birmingham Royal Ballet continues to impress at every turn. This company of incredible dancers and powerful actors have enjoyed a fantastic season and this is fitting celebration of their considerable collective talent. 5 stars
Photo credit: Bill Cooper