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Review: Beauty And The Beast, Birmingham Royal Ballet, Sunderland Empire Theatre

Our reviewer, Dick Godfrey, argues that Beauty and the Beast is a ballet that works whatever the time of the year

Birmingham Royal Ballet Birmingham Royal Ballet (BRB) performing its acclaimed version of Beauty and the Beast
Birmingham Royal Ballet Birmingham Royal Ballet (BRB) performing its acclaimed version of Beauty and the Beast

Christmas must be upon us. When BRB boss David Bintley created this piece 10 years ago, he told me one of his aims was to have a challenger for the seasonal supremacy of Nutcracker.

Not on, really. Nutcracker, after all, is actually set at Yuletide and has a decorated tree to prove it. No, the classic with which Beauty should be compared is Swan Lake. Both are, superficially, about the redemptive ability of love to save an unfortunate individual trapped in animal form.

Both have a serious sub-text behind the fairy story. In Beauty’s case, it is about exploring humankind’s feral nature; the animal that is not that far within all of us. Happily, the message is deftly delivered, not hammered.

In the comparison with Lake, this work comes out pretty well. The Beast himself is much more interesting than Prince Siegfried, with an emotional range from animal fury to tender despair.

Tyrone Singleton’s interpretation is electrifying. He steps effortlessly into the shoes once occupied by the great Robert Parker.

Heroine Belle is more of a Giselle or Cinderella than an Odette-Odile, a simple but determined soul driven by love and compassion. Elisha Willis captivates, as she usually does, with her dramatic technical poise.

Like Swan Lake, the work needs the right setting. And Philip Prowse’s sumptuous set, Mark Jonathan’s dramatic lighting and Glenn Buhr’s powerful score provide just that, making this a joy to see and hear.

You should by now have got the message that I like this work. In fact, I am enamoured. It is, perhaps, Bintley’s best. Nutcracker is for Christmas. Beauty And The Beast is for any time.

Dick Godfrey


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