October 3, 2017
Birmingham Royal Ballet hasn’t gone from strength to strength and gained a huge fan base over the last quarter of a century without doing something right, and this crowd-pleasing show proves exactly why they continue to succeed.
BRB director David Bintley’s spectacular Aladdin was originally created for the National Ballet of Japan in 2008 with its British premiere in 2013. In it he takes the traditional poor-boy-does-good story and turns it into a non-stop theatrical tour de force that allows more than an excuse for lavish treatment, including spectacular sets, marvellously colourful costumes and charming special effects.
With all this one might be forgiven for thinking ballet had been forgotten, but it is in fact the excuse for some very fine choreography from solos up to whole ensemble set pieces. And then of course there’s Carl Davis’ sweepingly cinematic score that powerfully underpins this whole production’s slick finish.
Right from the crowded opening street scene where likely lad Aladdin is captured by the palace guards we’re presented with dazzlingly bright spectacle that turns serene when thanks to the genie our likely lad becomes rich as any eastern potentate. Throughout, no opportunity for a sumptuous balletic set piece is wasted. My own particular favourites include one of the early scenes where a dejected and imprisoned Aladdin sits dejectedly on a staircase made from the gigantic ribcage of a dinosaur, or more appropriately here perhaps a Chinese dragon, and the charming palace scenes after the newly enriched Aladdin can claim the Princess as his bride.
It’s all good fun, but the lavish production values here signal this is a presentation not to be underestimated as cast, score, sets, lighting and overall sheen single this out as a show many companies would give anything to be able to match, giving as it does a cinematic illusion of depth and breadth to a production in fact restricted to a mere stage.
Mathias Dingman has just the right cheeky charm for the likeable Aladdin while the company’s assistant director Marion Tait’s mastery of mime makes her role as his mother as convincing as it is funny. Company favourite Ian Mackay is unrecognisable as the evil Mahgrib who wants the lamp for his own ends, and I must mention Tzu-Chao Chou as the spectacular Djinn of the Lamp.
I must just also mention the truly marvellous Dragon dance, a treat almost at the very end of the night that is the icing on the cake of a production which succeeds in being tastefully lavish from start to finish.
Aladdin continues to Plymouth and Sadler’s Wells. Visit www.brb.org.uk for details.