This isn’t a sponsored post.
BrumHour saw Black Sabbath – The Ballet at the invite of Birmingham Royal Ballet.
By Duncan Walker
This production contains drugs references through archive audio.
Review: Black Sabbath – The Ballet at Birmingham Hippodrome
⭐⭐⭐⭐”This show is a tour de force”
Birmingham Royal Ballet Directed by Carlos Acosta
A contradiction in form you may think, Ballet – light and airy, rarely grounded like other dance forms such as Modern Contemporary dance, combined with Black Sabbath (the creators of Heavy Metal in many musicians’ eyes) often associated with dark and grit. So, marrying the two together you’d be inclined to wonder, what kind of grinding conflict of creativity is this going to produce?
Act One: Heavy Metal Ballet
Choreographer Raúl Reinoso
Act One, of a three-act performance, opens with a classic Sabbath song, War Pigs, an anti-war protest song in its day. The lighting is very minimalist, with no stage set or scenery, simply an open floor and beams of light that fracture and define the dancer’s performance area. Enter the performers, like soldiers appearing in the distance through the fog of battle, all dressed in black. A memorable opening to any performance.
The act seemed a little abstract at first, but the symbolism suggested a light and dark motif, often revisited in the following acts. Dark shadows and inner demons form the main story with a beautifully danced duet part way through, where both dancers stay lip to lip without parting, while performing an excellent piece of choreography, probably my most favourite piece out of the whole ballet. Initially I thought, eternal lovers, but I think this was more a love of or connection to music.
The only scenery to appear was that of circular icons, lowered in from above, representing memorable images of Sabbath and their history. Smoothly executed, whole company sequences fitted well with the driving, heavy soundtrack, although mostly classical ballet-orientated choreography, it meshed very well.
Act Two: The Band
Choreographer Cassi Abranches
Act Two changes the mood and we see dancers now dressed in 70s attire including flared trousers, denim jackets – this is the birth of Sabbath and is narrated throughout by the band members: Tony, Ozzy, Geezer and the occasional snippet from Sharon. The motif for this act is well supported by the spoken word of each band member, detailing the early days, trials and tribulations, but above all the passion for the music they created. Each act portrays a connection at some point, often performed by a duet, be it the love of music, the love of close friends or the love of the fans.
It is an upbeat performance in contrast to Act One and can be quite humorous with dialogue from an open-minded Ozzy. As a Brummie at heart this does well to represent and support the people of Birmingham through such iconic figures as Black Sabbath, you feel a real connection to the performance on stage at this point. I especially appreciated the lighting used, which represented the six strings of a guitar and highlighted part of Tony’s story.
Act Three: Everybody is a Fan
Choreographer Pontus Lidberg
Act Three is all about the people, the fans and society in general, covering the diversity and support that Sabbath gave and received from loyal fans. The three acts come together as one at the end, both represented in costume and choreography. You’re left with a feeling that the band is timeless and will go down in history as a legendary influence.
Although the music is a blend of orchestral reworking and snippets of Sabbath songs, the earthy tones of Sabbath still shine through, often emphasised by the brilliant guitar work of Marc Hayward who appears all the way through Act one and partly in Act three on stage with the dancers. His presence helps emphasise the music and keeps the audience grounded in the world of Black Sabbath; credit to him for working the stage with the ever-moving ballet performers and at one point interacting with them in Act three when playing Laguna Sunrise.
It’s a well-crafted performance, with moments of beauty and a splash of uncertainty. Initially, I was uncertain about its success, but with great work from composers, choreographers, dancers and the legendary Black Sabbath, this show is a tour de force. If you’re very lucky, like myself, you should certainly experience it, there is nothing like it out there.
Black Sabbath – the Ballet is at Birmingham Hippodrome until 30th September 2023. Discover what is coming up at Birmingham Hippodrome here: birminghamhippodrome.com/whats-on. Find out more about Birmingham Royal Ballet here: brb.org.uk.