Elizabeth Nicholls reviews Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Beauty and the Beast, playing at The Bristol Hippodrome until Saturday 4 May.
Caught stealing a single rose, Belle’s desperate father exchanges his youngest daughter’s freedom for his own life. In his distant castle the Beast, stripped of his handsome features and his very humanity, must win her heart or spend the rest of his life in bitter solitude…
Much to my excitement a live orchestra accompanies this production. Glenn Buhr wrote the score in collaboration with the choreographer David Bentley and the music and movement work perfectly in unison.
Each character is announced through changes in the music, the ballet opens with delicate Belle in the library, accompanied by soft strings and gentle flute. Next we meet The Beast and his friends on a hunt, the musicians introduce rumbling drums and bold trumpets to give an air of arrogant confidence. The score has a romantic feel, drawing on influences such as Chopin and Mozart with some whimsical touches in places.
The scenery is like pages of a book peeling back as we approach the Beast’s castle. The lighting is dim during the first act with soft spot lights illuminating the dancers, in the darkness you can see curious glimpses of the luxe décor.
The choreography for this show blends contemporary movement and classical ballet seamlessly; In one scene the corps de ballet moved as a group using jerking arm movements to give the impression of a murmuration of starlings, reminiscent of contemporary choreographer Merce Cunningham, then Belle and the Beast dance a traditional pas de deux.
The costumes are rich and luxurious, with a rococo feel. There is an interesting contrast between the black and gold costumes worn by the Beast and his entourage and the sickly sweet pastels of Belle’s friends and family; when Belle enters the castle her white dress makes her stand out.
In the second act we are treated to a comic interlude as we join the family at the wedding of the pig-like Monsieur Cochon to one of Belle’s sisters (but which one?). The family performs an exaggerated Renaissance court dance and tussle over the buffet table, even the elderly grand-mère joins in the fun with her walking stick.
The show comes to it’s familiar happy ending, the layers of scenery fold back like the story book closing once again, the enchanted woodsman sweeps his cape and gives a cheeky wink to the audience and it is revealed that the charm has been undone and normality has been restored.
A night at the theatre to see this retelling of the classic French fairy tale is a real treat; it’s just so opulent!
Beauty and the Beast runs until Saturday 4 May at the Bristol Hippodrome, for further information click HERE.