BrumHour saw [Un]Leashed at Birmingham Hippodrome
at the arrangement of Birmingham Royal Ballet.
By Dave Massey twitter.com/BrumHour
Birmingham Royal Ballet
Birmingham Royal Ballet is back on the main stage at Birmingham Hippodrome until Saturday 15th June with a triple bill, each with female choreographers. [Un]Leashed is an evening of three separate ballets each lasting around 30 minutes with two intervals.
Peter and the Wolf
Choreography by Ruth Brill, Music by Sergei Prokofiev
With a set that looks like a construction site, littered bags of rubbish, shopping trolleys, traffic cones and a basketball court, you’d be forgiven for thinking this was an updated version of the story.
The dancers are all in modern urban “street” clothes, wouldn’t look out of place on Instagram stories where they stop cool people in the street and get them to pose.
But fear not, dear ballet lover, all of the elements of Peter (Laura Day) and the Wolf (Mathias Dingman) are right there, from the character narration by Hollie McNish (See more below) to the Bird (Tzu-Chao Chou), the Duck (Brook Ray), the Cat (Samara Downs) and the Grandfather (James Barton) sat in his comfy chair.
If you don’t know the music to Peter and the Wolf you will know Sergei Prokofiev’s other music as the theme from the Apprentice on BBC One. I’ve seen and heard several versions of Peter and The Wolf over the the years and it was real treat to see this version tonight.
This is a wonderful story for all ages, easy to follow and it is solidly told in ballet form.
Choreography by Jessica Lang, Music by Edward Grieg
Huge black concertina cards (or plastic) sit in the middle of the stage, acting as walls, semicircles, flooring and barriers. Between each piece the dancers rearrange these concertinas to set up the next section.
Absorbing to watch and challenging my expectations of having a straightforward story and narrative.
Sense of Time – World Premiere
Choreography by Didy Veldman, Music by Gabriel Prokofiev
Over 150 suitcases sit on the stage forming a large wall, they start to swirl in a line the dancers keep moving to avoid them, the suitcases seem to be from the mid 20th century.
Sense of Time is a great 30 minutes which throws up questions, who are the people? Are they travelling in time? Are they affected by war? The set made me think of the Berlin wall but some might think a proposed Mexican wall.
If you are thinking that the name Prokofiev has appeared already here you’d be correct Gabriel Prokofiev is the grandson of Peter and the Wolf composer Sergei Prokofiev. The music itself has vibes of radiophonic Doctor Who, The Matrix and Back to the Future with its full on orchestra telling a powerful story of displacement. I want to see how this would look blown into a full two hour story, There’s much to explore with these unnamed characters and what their history or future might be.
[Un]Leashed is at Birmingham Hippodrome until 15th June, Book tickets here: birminghamhippodrome.com/calendar/birmingham-royal-ballet-unleashed
Peter and the Wolf narrator Hollie McNish, a poet, spoke about her role within the production.
Is Peter and the Wolf something you were already familiar with, perhaps as a child? What do you think of the piece and its manifestation as a ballet?
I was, but didn’t realise I was until I was sent it. I’ve only heard it as a story though, I’d never heard it with the music, which I realise is strange as that is the whole point of the story! My daughter knew it though as they’d just done it in school. So I’m as excited as anything to see it all on stage with the orchestra and dancers.”
How do you feel about joining the ranks of Sir David Attenborough, David Tennant, Sophia Loren and Sir Patrick Stewart, who have all narrated Peter and the Wolf before?
Ha! Well, jeez, not sure what to say there, just pretty cool to claim something in common with them! David Bowie too, I liked his version a lot.
As a poet, you perform your work live regularly, is there an affinity in style between your own work and how you will narrate Peter and the Wolf?
I think, probably, the way that I tend to read this – or, the way I’ve been practicing at home – seems to have morphed into a cross between how I read my poems and how I read my daughter bedtime stories!
I’m also pretty nervous about what people’s reactions will be like to my voice – I don’t think it’s a normal ballet voice, if that exists!
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When not writing about theatre for BrumHour, or producing Interval Theatre for Brum Radio (Tuesdays 3pm) brumradio.com/intervaltheatre,
Dave Massey can be found eating crisps and claiming to be at the gym. And tweeting about Birmingham for #BrumHour.