As the centenary celebrations of Britten are almost past, Birmingham Royal Ballet present what could be the climax to it all - David Bintley's reworking of Britten's only comissioned ballet, first performed in 2011 in Japan.
Initially, we're greeted by a Fool, danced by Lewis Turner. He sits with his legs dangling into the orchestra pit, playing with the audience in a clown-like mime. He offers noodles to a family sitting in a box and rouses applause repeatedly. It's a pre-show gimmick that you'd expect at the circus but it's more than welcome here. Turner remains a delightful, charming presence throughout. Equally as charming is the beautiful Yaoqian Shang as Sakura...
The Emperor and The Fool. (Photo by Phil Hitchman)
Uninterested by any of the four kings presented to her, Princess Belle Sakura journey's to the kingdom of the Salamander Prince - danced expertly by Yasuo Atsuji. As the princess, Yaoqian manages to combine gleeful dizziness and moments of controlled despair. Seemingly inspired by an eclectic mix of existing stories, there are themes for all audiences. This both works and doesn't... At some moments so much is going on that the unfamiliar story can get a little lost. What works however is the fact that regardless of clarity, the dance itself is spectacular and sustains your interest through the three acts. The dance, coupled with the exquisite costumery is a dazzling spectacle... most of the time.
Not all the costumes are dazzling, the Yokai, are grotesque costume-characters, it's almost like Disneyland for zombies. At first they appear somewhat out of place - they're unlike anything you'd usually see at the ballet but as the story progresses you accept them as part of the oriental birdcage of fascinating creatures that you find yourself in. The Yokai are a perfect example of accessible ballet for everyone.
Sakura, a Yokai and the Salamander Prince (Photo by Phil Hitchman)
I did believe that the central couple were lovers (they always are, right?) until reading the synopsis confirmed that here, they are in fact siblings... the love is still as strong but despite a sometimes hazy narrative, which differs from the original (not that I was familiar), The Prince Of The Pagodas is evidently a vehicle for creative choreography that offers audiences a completely new experience. Worth a visit to Birmingham Hippodrome this week to see a creative interpretation of Britten's exciting, multifarious score. To book online, click here.
For backstage blog insights into The Prince Of The Pagodas, click here. View the trailer below:
You can listen to Lewis Turner talk about his roles in last weeks Three Of A Kind and The Prince Of The Pagodas.
Birmingham Royal Ballet Reviews