Review: Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Beauty and the Beast @ The Lowry, Salford

‘A dark and powerful fairy tale story told without a single word’ – Beauty and the Beast

Birmingham Royal Ballet brings a magical and mystical life to The Lowry in David Bintley’s rendition of the 18th century classic Beauty and the Beast.

When a merchant, Belle’s father (Rory Mackay), is robbed in the woods one stormy night, he takes refuge in a castle belonging to a huntsman who has been cursed by a wizard into the form of a beast (Brandon Lawrence).

As the merchant leaves the next morning, he is caught stealing a single rose, meant for his daughter Belle (Yvette Knight), and in return for his life, the merchant must send her to live in the castle.

Lawrence as the beast is transformed into a gruesome and grotesque figure whose saving grace is his elegant, light-footed dancing – remarkably so, considering his visible strength and size of frame.

It is no wonder he carries his partners around the stage with such ease and along with his mannerism and choreographed movements throughout the show, he really creates a beast-like character wonderfully fit to the part.

The audience is set alight with action and rhythm from the word ‘go’ with an outstanding dance by the four hunters riding in the woods.

The immediate synchronicity and finesse of the dancers is faultless and sets the tone of dance for the rest of the evening.

Knight who dances as the leading lady, Belle, is indeed a beauty and adds the soft, enchanting touch needed for the darkness of the production, especially when she is being transported to the castle on the wings of birds – a very creative and mesmerising touch.

Her feelings are shown clearly with every move of her body, and the first pas de deux between her and the beast presents an emotional tension of love and trust with glorious lifts and mirrored movements which are ended all too quickly, portraying disgust and internal hurt that she cannot let go of.

More dark and gloomy elements are added to the storyline with minimal lighting being used on stage and most of the cast dressing in darker coloured clothing while surrounded by smoke.

What could have been quite a risky choice of lighting by Mark Jonathan, by using this darker ambience it allows for artistic director Bintley’s energising and lively choreography to take centre stage and distracts the audience from getting lost in the dark.

The scene production also uses gothic-style stage props with attention to detail going into every single piece, from creepy libraries to the castles haunted features. Alongside the profound yet graceful live orchestral music, this creates an emotionally dark and mystical setting.

The costumes used are in no way flashy or bright either, and some might even say a little dreary. However, this all adds to the atmosphere.

One may even note the contrast in the costumes. The humans, cursed to be animals, are dressed in darker shades with pronounced animal heads which stand out more so than the actual humans themselves, who in turn are dressed in shades of pinks and white and blend in.

The most notable performance of the night, however, is that of the leading raven (Tzu-Chao Chou), who presents a majestic statement each time he takes to moving on the stage.

His bird-like dances are crisp and clean cut, powerful and yet so nimble and done with the finest precision.

He most definitely stands out on stage compared to the other dancers and proves that Bintley’s choreography isn’t simply about moving along the story line but drawing out each individual character to perfection.

The final pas de deux is a magical and heartfelt ending to the production and the audience cannot only see the apprehension, tension, trust and then love between the two dancers, but feel it.

This – along with the transformation from the dark and dingy castle into a glorious golden orb of light when the silhouettes of the new couple exit the stage – leave the audience beaming with awe and applauding in delight.

Although some would be disappointed that this production does not involve Disney’s childhood version of talking candlestick holders, mother teapots and dancing chests of drawers, it instead brings to light charm and extravagance which far exceeds the cartoon version.

What can sometimes be seen as an intimidating production to go watch, Birmingham Royal Ballet promises a show that is highly understandable and beautiful to watch.

A magical story without words to which anyone can enjoy – and a highly recommended show to go see.

*Beauty and the Beast is showing until Saturday, March 23. You can buy tickets HERE. 

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