The Tempest – Birmingham Royal Ballet: Sadler’s Wells, London, 13 October 2016

Storming the balletcades

Snail Male. Tyrone Singleton in BRB's The Tempest. Photo by Bill Cooper.

Snail Male. Tyrone Singleton in BRB’s The Tempest. Photo by Bill Cooper.

There are three quite separate things going on in David Bintley’s new creation for Birmingham Royal Ballet, William Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

Firstly there’s the story. It didn’t make much sense to me. Important moments are hurried and crucial characterisations are muddy; Caliban and his gang, for instance, aren’t threatening at all (despite Tyrone Singleton’s brilliantly wiry Caliban), they just look like a group of nice but dim lads out on a stag night.

That didn’t particularly matter however because the second major thing is the choreography. As traditional as new ballet gets Bintley’s even included the time-honoured sight of the two leads deeply in love and sitting watching a series of dances prepared especially for them at a pre-nuptial party. This was fine though because there was some lovely stuff in there; Ferdinand and Miranda’s pas de deux at the end of the first act was beautifully performed by Joseph Caley and Jenna Roberts, Lachlan Monaghan’s leaps and spins as Neptune were sensational and it was just a joy to watch Céline Gittens lock herself into her arabesques as Ceres.

It was the third element that really let things down; Sally Beamish’s score. Apart from a lovely waltz in the first act and an exciting few minutes to finish the whole work, the music was off doing its own thing – mostly the sort of noodly thing reserved for a very small audience on Radio 3 at two in the morning. It primarily served to deaden the atmosphere in the auditorium and meant the dancers were constantly fighting against it rather than working with it.

Nevertheless, there’s plenty else to admire in this Tempest. Rae Smith’s sets are decent (especially the golden ship at the end), most of the costumes are excellent (the outfits for Neptune’s fishy friends are up for debate, mind) and the puppet of baby Miranda was absolutely wonderful. Also, I never realised until this evening how much I wanted a shining floating chair in the shape of a peacock.

The Tempest runs at Sadler’s Wells until 15 October 2016 before continuing on a UK tour. Tickets for the whole tour can be found on the Birmingham Royal Ballet website.

Gerard Davis

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