Birmingham Royal Ballet Autumn Mixed Bill – Birmingham Hippodrome

Choreographers: Jack Lister, Cathy Marston, Twyla Tharp

Reviewer: John Kennedy

A Brief Nostalgiarevealstwo vertical, concreted-texture slabs. A vicious, horizontal fusillade of power-shadowed lighting splays the six dancers flaying in a dystopian matrix nightmare. Well, Birmingham Royal Ballet (BRB) just wouldn’t have it any other way when inviting the Queensland (Australia) Ballet to nimble/stomp tread their guest-spot balletic brilliance on the motherland’s boards. Theirs is a feral intensity of agitated, textured angst where disparate, fractured shifting forms flay in a stark, dehumanised urban gulag.

Lighting alchemist, Alexander Berlage plays Jekyll hide & seek-me-out minimalist symbolism with Jack Lister’s choreography. A Nü German Expressionism meets Clockwork Orange neon-fractured subway nightmares. Geometric planes shift and lift as shadow-land surrenders to a mist-whispered respite allowing evening-gowned lovers a momentary waltz, strictly on music composer, Tom Harrold’s, terms. His intense, scalpel-interrogation of mood and fractured time alloys visceral sensation with brooding menace. 1984 meets Logans Run in the skeleton-agitated Cabinet Of Doctor Caligari. Midwich Cuckoo, new kids on the block, its malevolent magic movement dissected from brooding solid air. Deliriously, dangerous sensual surrender at its very blizzard of Oz best.

The Suit celebrates Philip Feeney’s arrangements of Kronos Quartet pieces that superbly coalesce in this brooding, nuanced riff on Jacobean Tragedy set in Sophiatown, an imaginary binary for any principal South African city. Steeped in classical allusions, Cathy Marston’s choreography embraces a desperate deception where steamy-lovers cuckold a city-bound commuter husband. This is compelling dance/drama, part literal mime, part luscious eroticism ever steeped in anticipatory tension.

This unique collaboration between BRB and Ballet Black with a plot inspired by South African writer, Can Themba, bristles with a russet/tawny costumed chorus syncopating the protagonists’ moods and motion. Is it a wry twist on Othello where this Desdemona is the femme-fatale? She certainly gets tied-up in guilt after being gaslit-haunted by her husband taunting her with her lover’s suit – the clue being in the title. Infidelity, jealousy, revenge with beauty and beastly inevitability assured. Ballet Black is sure-fire, hot-rod cool, a crucible of simmering talent punching proud and taking no prisoners.

Nine Sinatra Songs features a sparse, back-curtained stage with suspended glitter ball. The medley features a reprise of My Way as pas de deux and ensemble partners dance the night away. There’s an elegant command of their brief tempered with a lingering, intangible sense of function over-celebration. The BRB corps is never truly comfortable with recorded sound which explains perhaps why Twyla Tharp’s 1992 take on That’s Life grabs the song by its love-horns driving Delia Mathews/Tyrone Singleton to go utterly ape-mental, bombast body ballistic doing something stupid – very much their way.

Runs Until 21 September 2019 | Image: Contributed

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The Central team is under the editorship of Selwyn Knight. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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