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BrumHour saw Rambert Dance in Peaky Blinders at the invite of Birmingham Hippodrome.
By Eleanor Lawson twitter.com/Elle_Lawson
Review: Rambert Dance in Peaky Blinders at Birmingham Hippodrome
Directed by Benoit Swan Pouffer, written by Steven Knight
Peaky Blinders has not only become fully embedded in the mythology of Birmingham, it has engulfed it. Reshaping the perception of the city worldwide, Steven Knight’s BBC smash hit drama has made the city cooler, sleeker, and sexier. Where once, Birmingham was seen as a relic of the Industrial Revolution, less exciting than its northern neighbours like Manchester and Sheffield, the second city has become an attractive destination in its own right. Knight’s legacy is a powerful one.
The resurrection of the Peaky Blinders also coincides with an artistic revolution at the Birmingham Hippodrome, which is eager to reflect the edgy history of the city in its creative output. Heavy metal and ballet may seem like diametrically opposed art forms, but the city is waiting in anticipation for Black Sabbath – The Musical, which is coming to the theatre in September 2023. This week, the theatre brings back Rambert Dance’s Peaky Blinders dance show for a second outing, shining a light on the dark underbelly of gang warfare in 1920s Birmingham.
For Peaky Blinders superfans, this is a love letter to Tommy Shelby (Guillame Quéau), walking the line between prequel and retelling. We begin in the mud-clogged trenches of Flanders, with the Shelby gang spasming and jerking erratically as we see the psychological toll that warfare takes on the brothers. This visually striking opener is followed by the gang returning to Birmingham and once again taking over the helm of the family business, albeit this time with a more ruthless edge.
As our narrator for the show, the voice of the all-seeing Benjamin Zephaniah tells us:
You young men of the tunnelling brigade, you are all dead. Not counted among the dead because your bodies were not buried with the dead, but dead inside.”
Their souls are blackened from warfare.
A ‘redemption’ for Shelby seems possible in his love affair with Grace (Naya Lovell), who in this version is a nightclub singer. Yet, fate twists its cruel knife and Tommy is alone, plunged into the abyss. Grief-stricken and at rock bottom, Tommy falls into opium addiction and has to choose between life or death. This show follows the twisted, difficult journey Tommy takes to choosing life.
The audience on press night was electric, filled with swarms of people dressed up in flat caps and flapper dresses. Peaky Blinders has such a dedicated fan base that droves of people filled the Hippodrome to delve back into the lives of their favourite characters. The roar the cast receive when they simply stand proudly, staring at the audience as the iconic sound of Nick Cave and the Bad Seed’s Red Right Hand fills the theatre, is testament to that. Each member of the family will be recognisable for fans, but audiences coming to see the work of Rambert who are less familiar with the show will need to pay attention to keep up with the plot. As the title suggests, this story is devoted to one man, Tommy Shelby, and devoted fans of the series will be ecstatic to bear witness to his story.
Rambert Dance in Peaky Blinders is at Birmingham Hippodrome until 27th May 2023. Discover what is coming up at Birmingham Hippodrome here: birminghamhippodrome.com/whats-on and find out more about Rambert Dance here: rambert.org.uk