Birmingham Royal Ballet marks 400 years since Shakespeare’s death with a world-class season of performance.
The timeless drama and storytelling of Shakespeare’s plays have inspired generations of theatregoers across the globe for hundreds of years. In 2016, Birmingham Royal Ballet commemorates 400 years since the death of arguably the world’s most prolific playwright with a rare and exceptional season of seven works including a brand-new one-act ballet from Jessica Lang, a world premiere by David Bintley plus two pieces new to the Company inspired by Shakespeare’s stories, characters and prose.
Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Shakespeare Season begins with touch of magic and mayhem as the Company revives Sir Frederick Ashton’s interpretation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Dream. In a dramatic leafy forest love gets out of hand for fairies and mortals alike in this classic production which was originally created in 1964 by Ashton to mark Shakespeare’s birthday. The Dream plays alongside A Month in the Country in an Ashton Double Bill (17-20 Feb).
For younger audiences, Birmingham Royal Ballet also presents First Steps: The Dream (19 Feb). This specially designed hour long interactive presentation introduces children aged three to seven years old to ballet and live performance featuring a full orchestra and cast of dancers. An on-stage storyteller will introduce families to the characters in the production of The Dream as well as all of the theatrical elements that come together to make a performance including the lighting, sound and orchestra. All tickets are priced at just £10. This special presentation will also take place at The Lowry, Salford (4 Mar) and Theatre Royal, Plymouth (15 Apr).
The season continues with Kenneth Macmillan’s widely celebrated classic production of Romeo and Juliet (24-27 Feb). Set to Prokofiev ‘s epic score, the tale of the passionate star-crossed lovers comes to life in this beautiful production featuring a stunning design recreating the grandeur and heat of Verona. The full production will also tour to The Lowry in Salford (2-5 Mar), Sunderland Empire (17-19 Mar), Nottingham Theatre Royal (30 Mar – 2 Apr) and Theatre Royal Plymouth (13-16 Apr).
In a riotous and comedic battle of the sexes, John Cranko adapts The Taming of the Shrew (16-18 June). In a first performance by Birmingham Royal Ballet, Cranko breathes new life into this wild and witty comedy telling the tale of the stubborn and tempestuous Kate and how her suitor Petruchio gets rather more than he bargained for when agreeing to their marriage. The Taming of the Shrew will also play at Bristol Hippodrome (29 Jun – 2 July) and tickets will be on sale soon.
Jessica Lang’s brand-new work for the Company, Wink inspired by the poetry of Shakespeare’s sonnets receives its Birmingham premiere as part of the Shakespeare Triple Bill (22-25 June). Birmingham Royal Ballet also performs José Limón’s The Moor’s Pavane for the very first time, based on the tensions, drama and jealousy in Othello. The bill concludes with a celebration of some of Shakespeare’s most famous and infamous characters such as Macbeth, Hamlet, Richard III and Bottom and Titania in David Bintley’s The Shakespeare Suite.
The Moor’s Pavane and Wink will also be seen alongside excerpts from Romeo and Juliet, The Dream and The Taming of the Shrew in the Shakespeare Midscale Tour which will tour to the Gala Theatre, Durham (10-11 May), York Theatre Royal (13-14 May) and Theatre Severn, Shrewsbury (17-18 May).
Birmingham Royal Ballet’s 2016 Shakespeare season concludes with the world premiere of Director David Bintley’s new full-length ballet The Tempest (Sep 2016). One of William Shakespeare’s most beloved narratives takes to the stage in a breath-taking production full of theatrical wizardry and stunning designs by War Horse’s Rae Smith set to a brand-new score by acclaimed British composer Sally Beamish. Tickets go on sale soon for Birmingham and additional tour venues.
As part of the Company’s ongoing commitment to involving audiences in the creative process, ahead of selected Friday evening performances (19 & 26 Feb, 17 & 24 Jun) audience members are invited to join a select panel of some of Birmingham Royal Ballet’s most influential creative forces as they discuss life as part of a world-renowned ballet company. The event is free for ticket holders.
On some Saturday mornings (27 Feb, 25 June) members of the public are then invited behind closed doors as the Company of dancers open up their daily class. This is a rare and fascinating opportunity to take a peek behind the scenes to witness the preparation and dedication needed to be part of the UK’s leading touring classical ballet company.