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Birmingham Royal Ballet Shakespeare Triple Bill - Review

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There are times when a performance is so perfect that you never want it to end. I felt like that during the final dance in this Shakespeare Triple Bill from the exceptional
Birmingham Royal Ballet

With a heady soundtrack of jazz music from Duke Ellington, David Bintley's The Shakespeare Suite scintillated from start to finish as it highlighted the bard's best-loved characters. This Shakespeare Triple Bill is worth seeing even if only for that final production.

Birmingham Royal Ballet, Shakespeare Triple Bill, Birmingham Hippodrome, Elisha Willis, BRB, David Bintley
Birmingham Royal Ballet's Shakespeare Suite is a perfect production

The Triple Bill pays homage to various aspects of Shakespeare's works to coincide with this year's 400th anniversary since his death.

BRB offered three very different productions, opening with Wink, a modern visually dynamic piece from Jessica Lang that captured the poetry of The Sonnets; before moving on to José Limón's The Moor's Pavane, a traditional short ballet based on Othello; and finishing on a high with The Shakespeare Suite.

Staying at Birmingham Hippodrome for afternoon and evening performances from June 22 to June 25, the production will be repeated in London at Sadler's Wells on October 10 and 11.

Birmingham Royal Ballet, Shakespeare Triple Bill, Birmingham Hippodrome, Elisha Willis, BRB, David Bintley
Wink is one of three varying pieces in BRB's Shakespeare Triple Bill

Wink is an atmospheric very new piece of work that got its world premiere in May this year in Durham, ahead of its visit to Birmingham Hippodrome. Dancers wear sheer tops featuring the inked words of Shakespeare's sonnets, so it appears as though his scrawlings are tattooed on their bodies.

The rich voice of Alfie Jones narrates lines from selected sonnets that Lang herself loved, starting off with the opening line of Sonnet 43 and "when most I wink, then do mine eyes best see" - inspiring the name of the production. Dancers do classical leaps, twirls and jumps between spinning full height panels of black and white that appear to be winking at the audience in another playful nod to the title.

There's newly commissioned bold string music by Polish-American composer Jakub Ciupinski, who studied at Birmingham Conservatoire. He has apparently tried to make the rhythm of the music match Shakespeare's lines and beats in the poetry.

It mingles classical ballet with bold modernity and is enhanced by terrific performances from Brandon Lawrence and Matthias Dingman in particular.

Birmingham Royal Ballet, Shakespeare Triple Bill, Birmingham Hippodrome, Elisha Willis, BRB, David Bintley
Sonnets and famous characters are depicted through dance by BRB

The second of the trio is The Moor's Pavane, which is a condensed version of Othello with only four characters, so there's a bit of dramatic licence.

Created in 1949, this is much more traditional than the opening dance but has distinctive choreography and a suitably menacing atmosphere for such a tragic tale.

Easy to follow, the piece featured four of BRB's best principal dancers - Tyrone Singleton as Othello, Iain Mackay, Delia Mathews and Elisha Willis, who was dancing in one of her final ever performances before she retires.

Brb, Birmingham royal ballet, Shakespeare suite, David bintley
Characters from Taming of the Shrew feature in The Shakespeare Suite

On to the final and best production of the night and the absolute joy of David Bintley's The Shakespeare Suite.

One by one, we see a collection of Shakespeare's best-loved characters come out to perform to a swinging Duke Ellington score. It's playful, dramatic and thoroughly entertaining.

There's the mournful Hamlet all in black and melancholy, while Shrew Kate is full of angry adrenaline on her wedding day to Petruchio in a white dress and trainers doing a mix of jive and swing.

Lady Anne and Richard III appear as a suave couple in cocktail-wear as he seduces her to a jazz soundtrack, but the highlight is a kilted Macbeth with red punk, pointed hair like a crown and his Lady who moodily dance together in preparation of the king's murder. It's wonderful choreography that ends with Lady Macbeth rubbing her hands together in a reference to her later "out damn spot" nightmares.

Lifting the mood is the carefree, high-spirited dance between Queen of the Fairies Titania and Bottom with his donkey ears. They appear like a pair of lushes from a Ginger and Fred movie, skipping around each other in a piece that can't help but make you smile. Tyrone Singleton returns as Othello for a second time but with a different, moodier flavour to kill his Desdemona once more and Romeo and Juliet perform a dreamy pas de deux. It's perfect in every way.

Rating: 8/10

Birmingham Royal Ballet's The Shakespeare Triple Bill
Running Time: Approximately 2 hours and 10 minutes including two intervals
Tickets cost from £10 from the BRB website.

Birmingham Hippodrome
June 22 - 25

Sadler's Wells Theatre
October 10 - 11
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Why? See ballet homage to Shakespeare
When: Performances in June and October
Phone: Various theatres, see list.
Where: Birmingham Hippodrome and Sadler's Wells, London
Cost: Tickets from £10
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