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Birmingham Royal Ballet - Autumn Celebration! (Plymouth - tour)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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First up on Birmingham Royal Ballet’s current tour is Autumn Celebration – a triple bill with contrasting pieces ranging from a luxury liner populated by 30s greats, through the Olympics to Shakespeare’s fairies.

Broadway choreographer Joe Lanyon’s 1971 piece ‘The Grand Tour’ just didn’t do it for me.

John Conkin’s shiny art deco ocean liner provides the backdrop to a parade of A listers of the time including a sinuous, sinewy Theda Bara vampishly danced by Samara Downs, and a sexy Gertrude Lawrence (a slinky Elisha Willis) swapping cigarettes lethargically with a debonair Noel Coward (an excellent debut in the role by Rory Mackay).

Victoria Marr is beautifully in character as the star-struck elderly passenger, shunned by the celebs, helpmeet to the stowaways and championed by the handsome steward (a gracious Tom Rogers).

Set to music mainly by Noel Coward with a smattering of hornpipe, this series of vignettes is colourful but fails to grab the attention.

After an extended interval, David Bintley’s homage to the Olympic spirit is worth every moment of the wait.

Set to a blaring, pounding score by Matthew Hindson, Faster is a celebration of all things sporting.

Opening with a series of short kaleidoscopic pieces frantically represent a number of disciplines such as high jump, fencing, synchronised swimming and hurdles.

The pace slows with a darker piece seemingly about the martial arts, risk and striving as the pas de deux consists of delicate grappling and subsequent injury before the stage explodes with the final section.

All 21 dancers, brightly attired by Becs Andrews, race around in a cacophony of pounding feet and pulsing score to the point of exhaustion and elation.

Dynamic and visceral, the shapes, aspiration and intensity are fabulous. Loved it.

Last up is the longest piece at 55 minutes.

Frederick Ashton’s 1964 ‘The Dream’ is a classical rendering of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream.

Peter Farmer provides a brooding set on which a full flight of frothy fairies attend their queen Titania (a delicate portrayal by Momoko Hirata) but fail to protect her from the wiles of Puck (a fiendish Mathias Dingman) and peevish King Oberon (a vibrant Cesar Morales).

There are slapstick rustics, the changeling boy and star-crossed lovers rampaging around the woods as well as the donkey-headed Bottom (Kit Holder in good form) who captures, albeit momentarily and thanks to mind-altering potions, the romantic attentions of his dream woman.

All very pretty and Mendelssohn’s score is given great gusto and exquisite expression by the Royal Ballet Sinfonia under the expressive baton of Paul Murphy.


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