The Prince of the Pagodas
The Prince of the Pagodas
© BRB

David Bintley's new interpretation of The Prince of The Pagodas first premiered for the National Ballet of Japan in 2011.

Now this reworking of a classic fairy tale has been brought home by the Birmingham Royal Ballet. In this re-imagining, there is a strong focus on family as we follow Princess Sakura on her mystical adventure to Pagoda Land. Following the presumed death of her brother, her bereaved emperor father weakens and her wicked stepmother quickly steps up to take control of the kingdom.

When Sakura's wicked stepmother presents her with four rich and powerful potential suiters, Sakura shuns them all in the memory of her brother. Unexpectedly a fifth suitor, The Salamander Prince, makes an entrance and Sakura, finding herself both repelled and enchanted, embarks on a dreamlike journey to uncover the real fate of her long lost brother.

Momoko Hirata (Princess Sakura) is captivating throughout and dances with precision and innocence; Elisha Willis (Empress Èpine) is magnetic as the evil stepmother, delivering sinfully faultless set pieces. Bintley's choreography is innovative, there is no weak link here - all of the dancers deliver with vigor and grace.

Best known for War Horse, Rae Smith's set design is a real theatrical feast of delights - set changes are slick and the whole production feels assured, paced and admittedly therapeutic and calming to watch. It is visually stunning; there are backdrops of Mount Fiji, a beautiful rising sun and eye catching Japanese flowers frame the stage. The costumes are exquisite, delicate and range from sea-horses and an octopus to sumptuous kimonos and parasols and all complement the movement of the dancers. Peter Teigan's accompanying lighting design moves through a striking range of different effects with ease.

Benjamin Britten's musical score is beautifully varied - swooping in style from majestic to delicate. I can understand that Britten's score must be very difficult to choreograph, but Bintley manages it; the orchestra deliver the oriental harmonies magnificently and shift seamlessly from the sinister to the fantastical and from the joyous to the heroic.

Prince of the Pagodas is Benjamin Britten's only ballet score and it isn't all that well known - it has been lurking at the bottom of the ballet barrel since it was created by John Cranko in 1957 and then reinterpreted by Kenneth MacMillan in 1989. Let's just hope that David Bintley's new interpretation is a hit with audiences this time.

Could The Prince of Pagodas be third time lucky? It certainly deserves to be as it's flawless.

Prince of the Pagodas continues touring until the end of March and the full dates are here.

- Kristy Stott