Thursday, 9 October 2014

Review | SHADOWS OF WAR (Birmingham Royal Ballet) October 2014

It's time for another triple-bill from Birmingham Royal Ballet this week and almost timely to the centenary of the First World War, the three ballets presented here are each touched in their own way by the shadow of war. 

The first, La Fin du jour is at first a delightful piece, also titled, The End Of The Day it does on the surface tell the story of bright young people, amusing themselves with parties and the latest fashions. It is simplistic in set, but bursting with vibrantly coloured costumes. We se relationships blossom, it's romantic and reminiscent of BRB's Elite Syncopations - a celebration. Shadowed of course, it's ending although not unpleasant is somewhat hinting at the sombre as their country is on the brink of war. 

 La Fin du jour 

The second of the three is most special, this was the world premiere of the revived production of Miracle In The Gorbals - reconstructed from memory by renowned choreographer of Cats - Dame Gillian Lynne. 

Set in a run-down and dangerous Glasgow suburb, it dispensed with all the frippery of traditional ballets, replacing it with a gritty realism that proved an enormous success. After the shock of a girl's suicide, the arrival of a mysterious stranger who is able to bring her back to life creates waves among the violent inhabitants of the tenements. 

The original production of 1944 was danced by a 17 year old Lynne, choreographed by Robert Helpmann and is gloriously reproduced for an audience 70 years on. Lynne herself is a miracle at 88 to still be rolling around the floor in full splits with the ballet dancers but has completely thrown herself into the rehearsals and production whole heartedly - and it shows. Whilst the piece isn't the most cheerful of stories, or the most captivating it is a rare opportunity to see this particular ballet that is masterfully translated. To see Lynne take her bow with the dancers was a moment of pure joy and an overwhelming sense of achievement. 

Dame Gillian Lynne in rehearsals with the company.

The final ballet, Flowers Of The Forest is in two parts, both Scottish dances. 'Four Scottish Dances' is the more lighthearted of the two, there are charming moments of real humour in the nostalgic, 'picture postcard' view of Scotland. Scottish Ballad' strikes a more serious note, and is danced to a folk-inspired score by the young Benjamin Britten. The composer's pacifist views found voice in this piece and it is grittier - an energised performance and constant contrasts keep an exciting pace making this final piece perhaps the strongest of the three. 

See Birmingham Royal Ballet present Shadows Of War at Birmingham Hippodrome until Saturder 11 October. Book online here

Dame Gillian Lynne begins work on Miracle In The Gorbals

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