THEATRE ROYAL PLYMOUTH – 9 MARCH 2019 & TOURING
BEAUTY & THE BEAST
RUNNING TIME 2 HOURS – 1 interval
Theatre Royal Plymouth Box Office – 01752 267222
REVIEW – CORMAC RICHARDS – 6 MARCH 2019
Ballet is not my usual review subject, but it is not unknown. It is, after all a form of theatre and, although I may not have the technical knowledge of dance, I know someone who has and their company was illuminating.
Birmingham Royal Ballet has a fine reputation worldwide and attracts an avid following – this was much in evidence at the Theatre Royal Plymouth where their opening performance of Beauty and the Beast played to a sell-out audience.
The classic fairy story has been seen in many guises over the years and this 2003 ballet, with choreography by David Bintley and music by Glenn Buhr, takes a particularly dark and mystical look at the tale. It is a complete delight.
From the stunning sets to the precision of the dance and the array of inventive costumes, this is a spectacle which keeps on giving – the glass of wine pours itself, the candles self-illuminate, the stuffed birds suddenly come to life. There is so much to enjoy.
In general, the story plays out well, though there was the feeling that the bond between Belle and the Beast came about too quickly and that she hadn’t been sufficiently repulsed and scared of him. There were just a few times that the narrative was not as clear as one might have liked, but this is being a little picky.
Belle, the spirited daughter of the Merchant is played with a great deal of charm by Momoko Hirata, though I missed a real connection between her and the Cesar Morales as the Beast who is dynamic and strong. Their pas de deux at the end is very beautiful.
Among the many animal characters, the Raven was something of a master of ceremonies and Tzu-Chao Chou dances it impressively endowing the bird with great presence. The Woodsman (Jonathan Payn) transforms the Vixen (a lovely cameo from Laura Day) into a Wild Girl who lives with the Beast – this is a stunning performance from Miki Mizutani. Michael O’Hare imbues the Merchant with gravitas but is entirely vulnerable as he finds himself in the Beast’s magical home.
Though a dark tale, the ballet is pitted with comedy. James Barton is wonderfully ghastly as the suitor to the Merchants two other daughters – complete with pig’s snout, he lives up to the name of Monsieur Cochon. The two ugly sisters are portrayed with relish by Laura Purkiss and Samara Downs. I was very taken with the choreography for the bailiffs at the opening of the show which had a touch of ‘Stomp’ about them, whilst being precise and tongue-in-cheek. Taking the comic plaudits is the vastly experienced Marion Tait who, as the Grandmother manages to upstage everyone at the hilarious wedding party – a piece of comedy gold.
The whole company work tirelessly; the swarming birds and the ball scenes are particularly visually arresting. The final transformation scene too was very effective and cleverly handled by the dancers.
The music by Glenn Buhr which has the feel of a film soundtrack and the orchestra under Paul Murphy is excellent. As mentioned the sets, by Philip Prowse, are mightily impressive, and choc-full of atmosphere. They were complemented by the magnificent lighting of Mark Jonathan – though it is pretty dark at times it helps create pure Gothic magic.
After 23 years as Director, David Bintley is soon to leave the Birmingham Royal Ballet and his version of Beauty and the Beast will, undoubtedly remain part of the repertoire for many years to come.
A ballet of great beauty and arresting visuals. A real treat.
BELLE – MOMOKO HIRATA
THE BEAST – CESAR MORALES
THE MERCHANT – MICHAEL O’HARE
FIERE – LAURA PURKISS
VANITE – SAMARA DOWNS
MONSIEUR COCHON – JAMES BARTON
WILD GIRL – MIKI MIZUTANI
VIXEN – LAURA DAY
RAVEN – TZU-CHAO CHOU
WOODSMAN – JONATHAN PAYN
BAILIFF – LACHLAN MONAGHAN
GRANDMERE – MARION TAIT
CHOREOGRAPHY – DAVID BINTLEY
MUSIC – GLENN BUHR
DESIGNS – PHILIP PROWSE
LIGHTING – MARK JONATHAN