Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Penguin Café Mixed Programme showcases outstanding home-grown talent

‘Still Life’ at the Penguin Café; Birmingham Royal Ballet

To celebrate the launch of Ballet Now – an exciting ground-breaking choreographic platform created by Birmingham Royal Ballet and Sadler’s Wells that will support 10 choreographers, 10 composes and 10 designers in the creation of two new one-act ballets for the next 5 years – Birmingham Royal Ballet presented a triple bill that showcased home-grown talent.

Opening the evening, Birmingham Royal Ballet’s very own First Artist and Choreographer presented her first commissioned piece Arcadia, the story of half man, half goat, god Pan. Dancing the title role Brandon Lawrence is captivating, embodying the animalistic qualities in his movements, with a rippling body he is both strong and subtle as he brings Pan to life. Joined by a chorus of nymphs Ruth Brill creates a dream-like Greek landscape all moody and mystical, set to an atmospheric saxophone score that accompanies the appearance of the Goddess of the Moon (Céline Gittens) who together with Pan performs an intoxicating pas de deux that is a highlight of the piece.

The second piece Le Baiser de la Fée by Michael Corder presents a dark story of a baby boy claimed by menacingly beautiful fairies, whose happily ever after and marriage to his beautiful bride is scuppered by evil treachery that leads to his dramatic death. The sets and costumes are lavish and impressive, with the fairy dresses glittering black and silver with twig-like sparkling crowns. Set to music by Igor Stravinsky, Lachlan Monaghan and Momoko Hirata – as the cursed son and bride to be – create a star struck tragic and enthralling pair. The scene at the bride’s house is particularly impressive with Hirata giving a lovely performance as she prepares for her wedding. Sadly the Fairy (Jenna Roberts) deceives the young man and he’s lured to his death dramatically closing out the historically reverential narrative ballet.


Birmingham Royal Ballet left the best for last with David Bintley’s ‘Still Life’ at the Penguin Café. Not only does this come as a delightful comic relief to the two preceding darker pieces, but it’s a sublime contemporary ballet with unique and interesting choreography that is wildly entertaining. Taking shelter from a storm, Ruth Brill stepped back onto the stage as The Great Auk (Penguin) emboldened with character, together with a cast of enchanting animals each with their bright individual personality and wit, but bearing a deeper meaning about the destruction of our precious environment. With a frolicking ram, a cheeky kangaroo rat, neon fleas, a stupendous striped zebra and a magical monkey we’re dazzled by their physical beauty and awed by their dancing. The wondrous waltzes, stand out solos, dynamic duos and scenes filled with cabaret, ballroom and pizzaz make us we fall in love with the cast from Tyrone Singleton as the zebra to Tzu-Chao Chou as the Kangaroo rat. Although seemingly frivolous, it’s a poignant and important piece with multiple levels of meaning that will remain firmly in the hearts of the audience.

Reviewed at Sadler’s Wells on 3 November 2017.