Beauty and the Beast - Birmingham Royal Ballet (Tour - Salford)
Alan Hulme sees Birmingham Royal Ballet's Beauty and the Beast at the Lowry.
Originally staged in December 2003, David Bintley's interpretation of the classic fairy tale arrived at The Lowry just a few weeks later, which is when I first saw it and wasn't, I recall, completely bowled over.
When it was revived in 2008, Bintley took the opportunity to make changes and it is this version that starts a five-week tour at The Lowry - next stops Birmingham Hippodrome; Sadler's Wells; Theatre Royal Plymouth and Sunderland Empire.
The strengths of the original, as I remember it, are still here but not all the weaknesses have been eliminated.
On the plus side, it looks pretty splendid. Philip Prowse's designs and Mark Jonathan's light provide a vast, mysterious, storybook page-opening, gothic labyrinth that quickly converts to jolly domestic and just as quickly to gorgeous spectacle – the gold and cream ball scene at the opening of Act II is a stunner.
The standard of dance also, as usual with BRB, leaves very little to be desired. Elisha Willis' Belle, is a well-known quantity and again she delivers the bookish, independent free spirit who is the only possible one who could set the Beast free.
Her Beast, Tyrone Singleton, conveys menace and frustration, despite the padding in a costume that looks like tufts of wool sewn on a body stocking, which it basically is I suppose.
The comic domestic scenes, in contrast, in Belle's father's house, are basically peopled by rural English oddities, character portrayals of a clutch of eccentrics, given broad brush movement, and costumes, that immediately identifies them, an art at which Bintley excels.
Glenn Buhr's melodic, very 20th century Russian, score, played by the Royal Ballet Sinfonia, conductor Gavin Sutherland, is worth the price of admission alone. I don't know whether there is an old-fashioned CD of it or not but if there is I'd like one.
Debit side? Well, despite some tightening up and clarification, one really does need to read the programme synopsis to fully understand what is going on – I tried without doing so for the first act and could follow the outline but not the detail, underlining, I think, the fact that, sadly, despite all the expertise applied, the piece doesn't quite connect with the auditorium as well as its creators must have hoped.
Beauty and the Beast is at the Lowry until 27 September.