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Review Triple Bill Birmingham Hippodrome.

Byline: Richard Edmonds

Birmingham Royal Ballet has called its triple bill "Summer Celebration and one of the things the company is celebrating is the Olympics, something which, at the moment seems inescapable, since you get Olympics morning, noon and night.

But David Bintley's new ballet "Faster" fills the stage with company dancers as athletes in leotards. They exercise, simulate track events by circling the stage at speed, and create some impressive moments.

Rarely have I seen better jumps and spins, and the double-jointed girl who gets swung upside down in the air by a couple of well-drilled males is like something out of Cirque du Soleil.

A central figure is Iain Mackay's muscular body builder. Looking like the cover of Men's Health, Mackay turns in another star performance and the whole thing drew audience approval in what is its world premiere.It should be screened at the Olympics building.

"The Grand Tour" was a pleasant diversion based on the notion that a group of mixed personalities ought to be entertaining on a cruise liner sometime in the Thirties.

I found it to be a piece of comfortably-danced silliness, which seemed to lack both rhyme and reason.

Amongst the dotty characters sauntering around the boat deck of Joe Layon's ballet, were George Bernard Shaw, rendered here as a priapic goon, Theda Bara, the silent movie star, who few people would recognise today, Noel Coward identified by a long cigarette holder and Gertrude Lawrence, generally identified in real life by her capacity to sing slightly off-key, something ballet cannot reproduce.

Basically these were shallow depictions of talented actors.

Coward's music was used throughout - or misused.

I saw little amusement in using that poignantly beautiful song"I Believe", (sung by the diseuse in Coward's operetta: "Bitter Sweet")as a backup tune for a glum, deeply unfunny, burlesque duo.

However, Rory Mackay did his best, impossibly dragged up as Gertrude Stein, and the stewards who raced about were a charming distraction, as were the sets and costumes.

Frederick Ashton's "The Dream" is based on Shakespeare's play with Mendelssohn's music. Peter Farmer's magical designs and costumes were ravishing using misty blues and greens to perfection to suggest the Forest of Arden, and the dancing from everyone was superb. I was particularly impressed with the delicate partnering between Jonathan Caguioa (Bottom) and Nao Sakuma's exquisite Titania. Ashton found the delicacy which lies within this bizarre love affair and Caguioa's shy wonder and vulnerability ( while dancing on point we can note) were wonderfully touching and almost approached perfection.

Richard Edmonds
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jul 5, 2012
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