Dance Review: Dark, brutal passion - and not a poker in sight
Edward II Birmingham Hippodrome
Saturday 11 October 1997
Bintley's gift for storytelling is not infallible (remember Cyrano?) but in Edward II the narrative pace and John McCabe's racing strings and angry drums zip along so that we can cut right to the chase, with none of the expository longueurs that so stifle MacMillan's Mayerling. Within 10 minutes we know who's who and what they are up to.
The curtain rises on a magnificent funeral cortege, looming pillars, cowled figures and dense fog eerily lit by Peter Mumford's expressive lighting. The monks file off, Edward is crowned and immediately resumes his exhilarating tours en l'air with the mercurial Piers Gaveston (Andrew Murphy). His wife is less than thrilled and soon embarks on some steamy pair work of her own with Joseph Cipolla's king-making Mortimer, who is quite clearly A Bad Thing. He and his Barons initiate a civil war in their quest for more power and dominate the stage in testosterone-rich ensembles worthy of the Bolshoi.
The historical narrative is intercut with the 14th-century morality tale Roman de Fauvel, in which a donkey is made king. This is told by a motley crew, including a Fool who sports a large foam-rubber erection that will be familiar to anyone who has ever tried to construct a giraffe with pink modelling balloons.
These costumes are designed by Jasper Conran. Sabrina Lenzi gets to model a succession of ravishing bias-cut devore velvet creations that had me dribbling into my programme. Never mind T-shirts: this ballet could take merchandising into an entirely different league. The ladies of the court wear plain black gowns crowned by a fantastical array of medieval funeral millinery ranging from wimples to distended mortar-boards.
Not all of Conran's costumes are this successful. The Barons have more studded leather cod-pieces than you can shake a stick at - if that's your idea of a good time. This heavy emphasis on leathers is reminiscent of the RSC in its late-Seventies biker period.
Much of the ballet's visual impact is thanks to Peter J Davison's mechanistically medieval sets. A high, wide window at the back slides open like a hangar door - a clever design that enlarges still further the Hippodrome's handsome stage. The opening reveals coronations, sunny blue skies and advancing battalions of blood- thirsty Barons. It's a brutal ballet: Isabella slaps her nurse (the excellent Marion Tait), the nurse spits in Gaveston's face, Gaveston is anally raped by the Barons and the King is peed on by his guards before he endures the final, fatal humiliation. His assassin, Lightborne (Tony Norman Wright), is a skinhead who dances a strangely gentle pas de deux with his victim before a portcullis suddenly falls and a glowing brazier is wheeled on. Lightborne tenderly places a black bag over the King's head before taking careful, and terrible, aim.
Family entertainment it ain't. But it's a strong tale, told with conviction, danced with passion and staged with the greatest possible style. Definitely worth shelling out for a babysitter.
To Tues (booking: 0121-622 7486); then on tour
Life & Style blogs
Max power: Nine ways to make your everyday meals more flavourful
Amputee drummer gains 'superhuman' skills with robotic arm
Fenwicks department store withdraws Boy London clothing over 'Nazi' eagle logo complaints
Stevia wonder: The plant that's a super sugar alternative – and free from calories and carbs
International Women's Day 2014: Google makes 80 second video of inspirational women from across the world for animated Doodle
Britain's top vet sparks controversy with call for ban on slashing animals' throats in 'ritual' slaughters for halal and kosher meat products
Ukraine crisis: Russia dismisses '3am ultimatum' as 'total nonsense'
If you're horrified by a flame-roasted dog, you should be shocked at a hog roast
Poor 'live like animals' says Boris's privately educated sister after going on 'poverty safari'
White people become less racist just by moving to more diverse areas, study finds
Exclusive: Impact of immigrants on British workers ‘negligible’
- 1 International Women's Day 2014: The shocking statistics that show why it is still so important
- 2 Orgasm machine to deliver climax at the push of a button
- 3 Singapore sting: Sky-high prices are pushing locals to the edge of affordability
- 4 Liam Neeson turned down James Bond role because late wife Natasha Richardson said she wouldn't marry him if he took it
- 5 Dead woman's body found sitting in a car after six years after direct debits ran $54,000 bank account dry
£12000 per annum: Inspiring Interns: A small but growing chain of boutique hot...
£12000 per annum: Inspiring Interns: The company works with Tier 1 FTSE 100 Ba...
£45 - 60k Per Annum: Charter Selection: Highly profitable leisure brand, marke...
£30000 - £50000 per annum + Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: Residenti...