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  • Writer's pictureFrances

Birmingham Royal Ballet: Beauty and the Beast | The Lowry | Manchester

The Birmingham Royal Ballet’s spectacular production of the classic fairy tale draws from the gothic but preserves the blossoming and passionate relationship between Belle and the Beast. Philip Prowse’s designs haunt the Lowry stage with a melancholy reimagining of the legendary tale that absorbs its audience into a breathtakingly macabre world.

The atmospheric and ambitious production choreographed by David Bintley brings an intimate portrayal of love and loss that unravels the story of the beast and his desperate search for love. After heartlessly hunting animals for his entertainment, the Prince is cursed by a Woodsman to spend his life in solitude, stripped of his humanity until he can foster the love of another. Meanwhile, Belle whose father has been caught stealing a rose from the sullen Beast’s castle is caged alongside the life-size embodiments of the Beasts once chased and disgruntled creatures.

Over 70 masked dancers grace the Lowry stage as the Beasts house staff are transformed into a flock of ravens. Sweeping choreography by Bintley cuts through the expected Disney colour pallet and singing candelabra that may be envisioned in the title. In contrast, the refreshingly dark take on the classic places specific, large-scale set pieces within its negative space. The pas de deux in the west wing of the Beasts mansion includes a grandiose throne and desk that tower compared to the petite Belle, who appears consumed by the Beasts world. The flat colours of the scenes pull focus on the extravagant details of the companies lavish corsets, laced costumes and bespoke furniture with the moody staging bringing the mesmerising tale to life.

Alongside the Royal Ballet Sinfonia, the whimsical music of Glenn Buhr forms a soundtrack that conveys the passion and playfulness of the story. Buhr’s lifting soundtrack travels between the strings of Belle’s isolated solos, dreamy duets and the ensembles animated party pieces amid the higher and hidden class.

With the story condensed into two acts of 47 minutes each, Birmingham Royal’s heavily masked ensemble sprinkle extra dramatic flair into their movements to carry the story across to their audience. The company always promise complex choreography and the Beast and Belle’s relationship includes a stunning finale with first soloists, Yvette Knight and Brandon Lawrence exhaustingly expressive conclusion.

With a moving score that blends with the productions isolated solos and rich ensemble sequences, Birmingham Royal’s Beauty and the Beast will delight a diverse audience attracted to the shows mature vision and chilling scenic staging. This is not your typical fairy tale but the wild, weird and wonderful production that first graced the Lowry stage a decade ago, brings the spirit of the classic tale to with a delightfully forceful reimagining.

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