A year of ballet and the Bard in Birmingham

It says much about Shakespeare’s works that the drama, humour and tragedy in his plays transfer so easily to other art forms. Even within dance there have been successful contemporary, ballet and even hip hop versions.

In 2016, Birmingham Royal Ballet marks 400 years since Shakespeare’s death with seven works at the Hippodrome including a new ballets from Jessica Lang and David Bintley, and two pieces new to the Company inspired by Shakespeare’s stories and characters.

The Shakespeare Season begins with the magic and mayhem of Frederick Ashton’s ever popular interpretation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Dream, originally created in 1964 to mark Shakespeare’s birthday. The tale of tangled love and the mixed up fates of humans and fairies is told with warmth and humour. The Dream plays alongside A Month in the Country in an Ashton double bill from February 17-20.

Birmingham Royal Ballet: First Steps The Dream

Aimed at children aged three to seven, BRB will also be presenting a specially designed hour long interactive presentation, First Steps: The Dream on February 19 that will introduce them to ballet and live performance. An on-stage storyteller will introduce families to the characters in the The Dream as well as all of the theatrical elements that come together to make a performance such as the lighting, sound and orchestra. First Steps: The Dream will also take place at The Lowry, Salford and Theatre Royal, Plymouth.

The February performances continue with Kenneth Macmillan’s classic production of Romeo and Juliet from February 24-27, for many, the ballet of the story. Romeo will also tour to Salford, Sunderland, Nottingham and Plymouth.

The Taming of the ShrewPhoto Richard Battye
The Taming of the Shrew
Photo Richard Battye

John Cranko’s The Taming of the Shrew was last danced at the Hippodrome by English National Ballet way back in 1991, so its return is long overdue. It finally happens on June 16 when BRB perform the ballet for the first time. It’s a riotous and comedic battle of the sexes, Cranko breathing new life into the tale of the stubborn and tempestuous Kate, and her suitor Petruchio who gets rather more than he bargained for when agreeing to marriage. The Taming of the Shrew will also play at Bristol Hippodrome.

June also sees the Birmingham premiere of Jessica Lang’s second work for the Company, Wink, inspired by the poetry of Shakespeare’s sonnets. It forms part of a Shakespeare triple bill (22-25 June) alongside BRB’s first performances of José Limón’s The Moor’s Pavane, based on the tensions, drama and jealousy in Othello; and David Bintley’s celebration of Shakespeare characters, The Shakespeare Suite.

Wolfgang Stollwitzer as Macbeth in The Shakespeare SuitePhoto Bill Cooper
Wolfgang Stollwitzer as Macbeth in The Shakespeare Suite
Photo Bill Cooper

The Moor’s Pavane and Wink will also be seen alongside excerpts from Romeo and Juliet, The Dream and The Taming of the Shrew during May on the midscale tour to Durham, York and Shrewsbury.

BRB’s Shakespeare-fest concludes with the world premiere of David Bintley’s full-length ballet The Tempest in September. With technical wizardry and designs by Rae Smith (War Horse), and set to a brand-new score by acclaimed British composer Sally Beamish, it promises to round-off the season in style.

Birmingham Hippodrome dates:

The Dream/A Month in the Country – February 17-20, 2016
First Steps: The Dream – February 19
Romeo and Juliet – February 24-27
The Taming of the Shrew – June 16-18
Wink/The Moor’s Pavane/The Shakespeare Suite – June 22-25
The Tempest – September (dates to be confirmed)

For more details visit www.brb.org.uk/shakespeare