Beauty and the Beast – Birmingham Royal Ballet
A cruel Prince, cursed to spend the rest of his life living in a fantastical castle with the animals he callously hunted, finds salvation in the heart of a beautiful girl.
Caught stealing a single rose, Belle's desperate father exchanges his youngest daughter's freedom for his own life. In his distant castle the Beast, stripped of his handsome features and his very humanity, must win her heart, or spend the rest of his life in bitter solitude…
Witness transformations, wild waltzes, soaring birds and a relationship between Belle and the Beast that is at first terrifying, but ultimately serene and beautiful.
Beauty and the Beast
Choreography: David Bintley
Music: Glenn Buhr
Designs: Philip Prowse
Lighting: Mark Jonathan
Belle: Delia Mathews
The Beast: Tyrone Singleton
The Merchant, Belle's father: Rory Mackay
Fière: Laura Purkiss
Vanité: Samara Downs
Monsieur Cochon: James Barton
Wild Girl: Yaoqian Shang
Vixen: Beatrice Parma
Raven: Tzu-Chao Chou
Woodsman: Jonathan Payn
Bailiff: Lachlan Monaghan
Grandmère: Marion Tait
Hunters, Birds of the Air, Birds of the Forest, Court Beasts, Wedding Guests: Artists of Birmingham Royal Ballet
In 2011, Laura Thompson's excellent review for The Telegraph started with a well-put point:
I thought of this as I watched Beauty and the Beast, with an audience diverse enough to satisfy any BBC criteria, and united in delight at the shining complexities on stage. True, when ballet becomes a tired technical procession of Swan Lakes then it is a played-out form. But when – as with a company like Birmingham Royal Ballet – it is constantly reinfused with meaning and vitality, it can move and astound to a degree worthy of that other dead elitist, William Shakespeare.
David Bintley, who will soon hand over the reins of the company to Carlos Acosta, has choreographed ten full-length ballets since he became Birmingham Royal Ballet's Director in 1995. Beauty and the Beast was created for the company in 2003.
Neil Norman for The Express wrote,
David Bintley's ballet version, which first appeared in 2003, is a thing of monumental glory. Like his later Cinderella this is not afraid of the dark. There are no guarantees that it will end happily. From the opening prologue, which explains how the Beast came into being, the stage is bathed in dark coppery tones, vein-blood red and black. Philip Prowse's sets tower over the performers, from burnished mirrors to golden doors, from forbidding forest to castle walls.
Graham Watts writing in 2014 said,
Mark Jonathan's lighting contributed impressively to the shadowy gothic feel, with considerable use of pinpointed candlelight effects. Many people feel that current trends are for stage lighting that is just too dark but this is one of those rare occasions when it is called for and Jonathan maintained a good balance between lighting the things that had to be seen and keeping his overall gothic-inspired theme at a consistent level.
The score was especially composed for the piece, back in 2003, by Canadian composer Glenn Buhr. One can tell that there must have been a very close interaction between choreographer and composer, since the music is always cleverly descriptive of the action, in a linear – almost literal – sense. I could close my eyes and more or less know what action the music is describing on the stage, at any point during the piece; but, in the interval, I couldn't close my eyes and remember the music from the glorious pas de deux I had just seen, and – for me, at least – that is the downside to the score. There are no memorable, or hummable melodies: it washes over you and then it's gone.
The production is on tour until 30 March 2019.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.