A darkly opulent Beauty and the Beast from Birmingham Royal Ballet

Birmingham Hippodrome
February 19, 2019

Phil Preece

Remarkably, it’s five years since BRB supremo David Bintley’s impressive Beauty and the Beast was last seen. But now it’s back, a lavish post-Christmas panto of a show with marvellous sets, costumes and spectacular set pieces, all set to Glenn Buhr’s powerfully evocative score played by the marvellous Royal Ballet Sinfonia led under the leadership of Paul Murphy.

Starting in the familiar Cinderella situation, a rich man has three daughters. Two of them are haughty and proud, played here with spectacularly spoilt abandon by company favourites Laura Purkiss as Fiere and Samara Downs as Vanite. BRB veteran Michael O’Hare as their father made it very obvious via wonderfully expressive mime that he was simply no match at all for their avariciousness and all-consuming self regard.

But while the first act retells the familiar story of a rich doting father benighted in a magical castle and forced to pay for taking shelter by delivering his youngest daughter to his host, the almost impossibly opulent second half dresses up the simple tale of the Beast becoming humanised with a series of spectacularly visual and melodic set pieces. Not only that but it reveals an unexpectedly feminist twist to this ancient story, as the Beast (the marvellous Tyrone Singleton) takes the role of the Sleeping Beauty while the resurrection is brought about by Belle herself, played here with exquisite delicacy by Delia Mathews.

Fittingly for a tale that has such deep emotional undercurrents, the lighting and decoration are rich and darkly luxurious on a massive scale thanks to Philip Prowse’s designs and Mark Jonathan’s lighting. The opulence of the sets and costumes alone make this worth a punt. Beauty and the Beast is a raven’s wing of a production, visually, musically and above all choreographically, yet with a supreme message of hope that out of darkness comes light, and here the triumphant finale proclaims that love, as always, conquers all.

The 5-year old on a booster seat next to me sat entranced throughout her first ballet experience. She’ll be back.

Beauty and the Beast continues at the Birmingham Hippodrome to March 2, 2019. Visit www.birminghamhippodrome.comfor details and tickets.

It then continues on tour. Visit www.brb.org.uk for dates and venues.