Spring season came to the Birmingham Hippodrome last night with the opening of the Birmingham Royal Ballet’s latest offerings, ‘The Dream’ and ‘A Month in the Company’. This Sir Frederick Ashton double bill transported the audience to the Forest of Arden for a balletic take on ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and to Victorian Russia for a tale of forbidden romance and emotion. Two very different ballets, both totally wonderful in their own way.
The classic Shakespeare story lends itself so beautifully to ballet. Titania (a stunning, ethereal Nao Sakuma) quarrels with her King Oberon, the King of the Fairies over a changeling boy who he wants to be his paige. This leads to mischief when he plants a magic herb in Titania’s eyes that will make her fall in love with the first creature she sees. Much amusement arises when she falls in love with Bottom (played with village idiot charm by Jonathan Caguioa) who has been transformed into an ass.
What follows is a magical comedy of mischievousness, as Puck (Marius Dingman) proceeds to make all manner of couples fall in love with each other, causing rumbles, arguments, and an amusing scene when the two female characters, Helena and Hermia have a fight over Lysander.
The Dream is a beautiful, magical piece of ballet with rustic charm in bucketloads. The dance of romance of Titania and Bottom is hilarious, as Bottom clip clops around the stage in full horse mode. In contrast, the stunning dance between Oberon (Joseph Caley) and Titania is sublime in its romance and beauty.
The Dream is a brilliant introduction to the work of Sir Frederick Ashton, and to the work of Shakespeare.
A Month in the Country
Another short ballet, this time based on an 1855 play by the Russian Writer Turgenev, ‘A Month in the Country’ is an intense ballet that is full of longing, drama and tension. Natalia (Delia Mathews) is the very epitome of a frustrated housewife, who life is thrown into turmoil with the arrival of Beliaev, a handsome tutor. Passion ensues, but Natalia is not the only woman who has a passion for Beliaev. Acting on the passion leads to despair and heartache for all concerned.
This is a very tight ballet with a small cast, the action confined to one room in a beautiful house, (The set was exquisite). The whole company is exemplorary, Delia Mathews is just wonderful, by turns languid, and then sensuous in her dance with the handsome, virile Beliaev, the always wonderful Iain Mackay . In contrast, the flirtation between the tutor and Natalia’s ward Vera, Karla Doorbar, is fresh and innocent, almost chaste in its newness. Karla is enchanting in her dancing and brings the the lightest of touches to her scenes.
The beautifully ending of A Month in the Country is a poignant portrait of love lost as Beliaev returns, but then departs, leaving only a flower as a memory. Sublime.
For ticket information and show times click here.