DanceReviewSouth West

Peaky Blinders: The Redemption of Thomas Shelby – Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff

Reviewer: Beth Steer

Writer: Stephen Knight

Choreographer: Benoit Swan Pouffer

Written by Stephen Knight, writer of the original television series, Rambert Dance’s Peaky Blinders: The Redemption of Thomas Shelby is an imaginative dance adaptation that takes the show from screen to stage.

Charting loveable rogue Thomas Shelby’s path from the trenches in World War One through his passionate love affair with Grace Burgess, and onwards towards heartbreak, addiction and, finally, redemption, the performance focuses on the core themes of the hit series.

Pitted as including ‘exclusive plot and character insights’ that were in Knight’s ‘mind as he was creating the TV show’ – as well as featuring the pre-recorded voice of narrator Benjamin Zephaniah (Jeremiah in the series) – Peaky Blinders promises fans ‘special additional rewards’.And, for fans of the show, the adaptation is sure to provide just that.

Featuring the full Rambert Company – and choreographed by Artistic Director Benoit Swan Pouffer – as well as a startling live band, the show is packed with athletic dance and imaginative interpretations of a post-war industrial Birmingham.

There’s no denying the cast’s talent – with particularly mesmerising performances from Naya Lovell as Grace and Guillaume Queau as Tommy – and the routines are impressively in-depth, multi-faceted, and increasingly complex as the audience watches them unfold. Musa Motha’s performance as Barney, too, is genuinely astonishing.

The staging, set design and costumes are truly transportive – pulling more than their fair share of weight when it comes to building the performance’s narrative (the carousel sequence is especially cleverly constructed).That being said, and as much as die-hard fans of Peaky Blinders and/or dance recitals will undoubtedly appreciate the adaptation, Peaky Blinders does lack context for anyone not well-versed in the plot of the series.

It feels as though the production assumes a significant level of prior knowledge – of the characters, the plot, and their motivations – and, without that knowledge, it’s not entirely clear who’s who and what their relationships with one another are. As a result, the performance can be slightly chaotic to follow – and keeping up with exactly what’s going on is quite difficult. There are some very long scenes, too – particularly the near 30-minute opioid experience – which, while beautifully performed, don’t lend themselves to the fast-paced viewing experience you might expect.

All in all, it’s a niche production, but, if the audience applause at curtain fall is anything to go by, for fans of both Peaky Blinders and the Rambert Dance Company, it ticks a lot of boxes.

Runs until 25 March 2023

The Reviews Hub Score

Inventive dance reimagining

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The Reviews Hub - South West

The Southwest team is under the editorship of John McRoberts. 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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