Edward II had a very nasty end. A grisly episode in British history which hardly seems a likely subject for a three-act ballet. Yet British ballet - well Kenneth MacMillan anyway - has raped and pillaged the past before now in the search for meaty dramatic subjects, such as when he made Anastasia and Mayerling. The usual problem with history ballets is that although the scenes between the key players lend themselves quite happily to pantomime and pas de deux you are still left with niggling historical atrocities like a dancing Rasputin.
David Bintley is fully conscious of the dangers: "In Mayerling there are so many minor characters it confuses the central issues." In 1995 he created Edward II for Stuttgart Ballet and on Thursday it receives its British premiere with Birmingham Royal Ballet at the Birmingham Hippodrome. The music is by John McCabe and the costumes are by a Bintley regular Jasper Conran.The king's love for Piers Gaveston, and his wife's passion for the usurping Mortimer are all meat and drink to the choreographer. But is Bintley happy with his treatment of the play's notorious ending in which the homosexual king comes to grief via the business end of a red-hot poker? "You have to work from the premise that there is nothing that can't be treated in dance. In one of the theatre productions that I saw it was done rather realistically and more sordidly. Mine is done in a much more operatic way."
Bintley feels that some aspects of the story are actually better served by dance than by blank verse. "One of the reasons that I did Edward is that all the versions I've seen of the play are small scale but you do miss an idea that what is happening between these four people is affecting an entire country, that the carnage and war is all because of their sexual peccadillos. In dance you can show that".
Birmingham Hippodrome (0121 622 7486) 9-14 Oct and touring