Touring – reviewed at Festival Theatre, Edinburgh
Guest reviewer: Sarah Moyes
Birmingham Royal Ballet puts on a truly magical and haunting performance of David Bintley’s Beauty & the Beast.
The story follows a cruel prince who has been cursed to spend the rest of his life living as a beast in a mysterious castle. After being caught stealing a rose, Belle’s father, the Merchant, exchanges his daughter’s freedom for his own life leaving it up to the beast to win her heart or spend the rest of his life alone in bitter solitude.
Beauty and the Beast is one of the most well-known fairy tales, but this production is not anything like the Disney story you might expect. There’s no magical teapot or candelabra, instead choreographer David Bintley shows a much darker and somewhat tortured side to the famous tale.
The show opens with a familiar scene which sees Belle (Delia Mathews) surrounded by shelves of books while the rest of the stage shows how the prince was turned into the Beast (Tyrone Singleton). Out hunting with his friends and about to close in on a vixen, a Woodsman (Jonathan Payn) puts a curse on the young men so that each is turned into the wild animal he is in his heart.
When Belle and the Beast finally meet, the chemistry between the pair is gripping. Mathews and Singleton move around the stage effortlessly as their relationship develops from one of torment to one of genuine love as the grow closer.
When the pair are dancing together it’s hard to take your eyes off them as he lifts and twirls her through the air – but, equally, each commands the stage when they are dancing on their own.
The show is set to a backdrop of beautifully atmospheric music by written specifically for the production by Glenn Buhr and performed by Royal Ballet Sinfonia. It’s dramatic, emotional and carries the story perfectly.
The second act flows much better than the first and opens with the all the dancers on stage as the Beast throws a huge ball at his castle. It’s here the full Birmingham Royal Ballet company take on the roles of the castle’s inhabitants who have been turned into wonderful creatures as they fell under the same curse as the Beast.
Despite the show’s darker theme, David Bintley injects some comedy into the production. While the wedding scene between Belle’s sisters seems somewhat out of place, Vanité (Samara Downs) and Fière (Ruth Brill) are able to indulge in their humorous side as they fight it out to marry James Barton’s Monsieur Cochon. However, it’s Grandmère (Laura Day) who steals the scene as she continually dances the wrong way with her walking stick in hand.
The set design, by Philip Prowse, is simply exquisite. The large, grand set pieces that form the beast’s castle are full of intricate details that really come to life in the second act when the stage is lit up by candlelight. There are also a few magical touches in there, such as a candelabra that suddenly turns on, and a chair with arms that close around Belle’s father.
The costume designs are equally spectacular, from the animal costumes of the vixen (Beatrice Parma) and Raven (Tzu-Chao Chou) to the beautifully elegant ballgowns that Belle and the guests spin around the stage in during the ball scene.
Birmingham Royal Ballet’s rendition of Beauty and the Beast may not be the one you remember from Disney but this dark and haunting tale is still wonderfully magical.
Running time: Two hours sand 10 minutes (including one interval)
Festival Theatre, 13/29 Nicolson Street EH8 9FT. Phone booking: 0131 529 6000.
Wednesday 13 – Saturday 16 March 2019
Evenings 7.30pm; Matinees Thurs, Sat: 2.30pm.
Tickets and details: Book here.
Beauty and the Beast on tour:
13 – 16 March 2019
0131 529 6000
20 – 23 March 2019
28 – 30 March 2019
0844 871 3022
1 – 4 May 2019
0844 871 3012