Touring – reviewed at Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre, London
This is an exhilarating way to explore the world of the Shelby family, brought to stunning life thanks to the show’s creative team.
While the TV series may have finished, the world of the Peaky Blinders and the Shelby family continues to fascinate and that looks set to continue with this electrifying and dramatic new dance show created by series creator Steven Knight and choreographer Benoit Swan Pouffer.
Sweeping audiences from the fields of World War One through to violent actions of the Shelby family on the streets of Birmingham, Peaky Blinders: The Redemption of Thomas Shelby is filled with plenty of drama (particularly in the first act), wonderful characterisations by the Rambert performers and Roman GianArthur’s bold (with hints of swagger) rock-infused score framing the story nicely. There might be no spoken word (excepting the rather sombre but poetic narration by Benjamin Zephaniah) but the story is still powerfully told through dance, leading to many beautiful moments that are somewhat haunting.
Visually, this is a show that exerts great power, particularly during moments such as the moments taking place during World War One with the cast crawling out of the trenches of the stage that has been hauntingly lit thanks to the way in which Natasha Chivers has designed to capture the bleakness of the world. Later there’s a dream-like quality as Thomas Shelby descends into an opium-filled haze that adds an effective detached quality as he isolates himself with grief. Lighting is very much a key in helping to frame the story and the depth of emotion that is displayed throughout the story.
Meanwhile, Moi Tran’s set design is extremely effective when combined with the music and lighting design – effectively transforming from the trenches of World War One, to the streets of Birmingham as well as adding a touch of glamour when it comes to the moment in which Thomas meets Grace in a bar for the first time. The splashes of colour that are sparingly used, offer a glimmer of hope and optimism away from the violence.
But of course right of the centre of this, the importance of telling the story of the Peaky Blinders through dance is no easy task, but Pouffer does an impressive job – with the first act in particular filled with passion and energy that the story requires to keep the audience engaged and enthralled. The sharpness in the way in which the more violent moments are captured and highlighted have a real sense of drama about them, while the fluidity of the dances between Thomas and Grace has plenty of charm. It does have to be said though, the choreography in the second act lacks slightly in the same energy, as the focus changes to Thomas struggling to deal with his emotions in the wake of a tragedy that takes place at the end of act one.
Throughout it all, there is no doubting the talented Rambert dancers all capture their characters with great depth and detail that their tv show counterparts would be impressed with. In particular, Simone Damberg-Wurtz as Polly is truly mesemerising to watch, catching the character’s awareness and cool way in which she deals with any brewing situation- it is reflected perfectly in every movement. Elswewhere, Conor Kerrigan as Arthur highlights the character’s swagger and confidence admirably, while Guillaume Queau manages to find new depths to Thomas Shelby that makes you see the character in a new light. His chemistry with Naya Lovell as Grace is smoking hot – when they dance together you can sense a real strength of bond.
Overall, while on paper it might not make natural sense to transform the Peaky Blinders into a dance show – but it does work extremely well. It is filled with as much emotion, tragedy and drama as many ballets are capable of offering and is thrilling to watch from start to finish. Filled with plenty of swagger – this is a show that is accessible whether you have watched the TV show or not.
By Emma Clarendon.
Peaky Blinders: The Redemption of Thomas Shelby continues to play at the Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre until the 6th November before continuing to tour. You can book tickets for the London run here.
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