We’ve been enchanted by Birmingham Royal Ballet’s performance of Beauty and the Beast. Read on to be charmed by tales of the opulent costumes, magical set and jaw-dropping dancing.
David Bintley’s ballet-take on the dark fairytale Beauty and the Beast stuns the audience with opulent costumes, a decadent magically moving set and incredible dancing. The Prince is punished for his glutenous and cold-blooded actions by being transformed into a beast, forced to spend eternity inside a fantastical castle surrounded by the animals he killed. A rose is stolen from the beast, so he traps the thief’s daughter Belle inside his castle to share his miserable days. Waltzes, grand banquets and comedic moments captivate the audience until love prevails and frees the Beast from the curse.
- Opens with Belle resting on the beautiful bookcase stairs
- The Prince hunts in formation with other male dancers
- A magical woodsman transforms the Prince and his cronies into animals - an innovative shift away from characters becoming furniture.
- Belle’s first ephemeral pas seul
- Four rat-like characters menace Belle’s father and co. in a storm in the woods
- Belle’s father enters the Beast’s castle and is taken care of by self-pouring wine, moving plates and a chair that hugs
- Belle’s father plucks a rose and steals a chest of treasures
- A magical mirror reveals Belle in a split scene, whose father trades her life for his own
- Dance of the ravens
- Belle enters castle and meets the Beast. They tentatively dance together; the Beast is filled with a mix of animalistic cruelty and humanistic lust.
- Resumes with grand ball at Beast’s castle with beautifully dressed hybrid human-animal dancers
- Belle bourrees in with Beast and they dance. A battle ensues and releases the Beast’s rage when a challenger tries to dance with Belle.
- Belle expresses her lament at being trapped in the castle with a tormented dance
- Beast frees Belle then gives despairing dance
- Comical scene of Belle’s Sisters’ Wedding banquet. Belle later arrives and is rejected.
- Procession of Beast’s lifeless body at his castle
- Wild Girl and animals dance
- Wild Girl brings Beast to life. They dance together with effortless lifts.
- Beast studies Belle in the magical mirror. Split scene with Belle dancing on stage.
- The sisters steal rose from Belle, destroy it and scatter the petals over Beast
- Beast becomes a Sleeping Beauty type in a feminine twist to the plot, awaiting his resurrection by Belle
- Belle enters castle and scatters the petals over Beast’s body. She embraces him and rose petals from the scaffold fall.
- Beast disappears under a black sheath and Woodsman transforms him back into a handsome Prince thanks to Belle’s love
- All the masquerade characters trapped in the castle are freed from their animal states
- Belle does not recognise Prince and he expresses he still has the same heart
- Belle and Beast dance in an enchanting, love-fuelled duet
- The fantastical set closes leaving the magical woodsman and the Wild Girl behind, who he transforms back into a vixen for one final metamorphosis
Magic was certainly alive on stage! Philip Prowse has created a gothically indulgent set for BRB’s Beauty and the Beast. The mystery of magic is concealed behind antiquated self-opening doors and buildings telling of decay. Special effects like candles that magically burst into flame, a chair that hugs and a wine chalice that fills itself dazzle the audience. One of the main wow moments for us was when the birds of prey around the castle gates of the Beast’s lair started rustling their feathers and stretching their wings. Other standout moments include the lavish banquet of the wedding scene and the smoke and mirrors effect that Prowse uses to add even more mystery to the magic Woodman’s actions.
The tale of Beauty and the Beast is popular and much-loved, but Bintley’s version of the story borders more on the original eighteenth-century fairy tale in an abridged form with the gothic and macabre. Expensive-looking and intricate costumes dazzle the audience and make each character even more lifelike. The Beast is terrifying in his realistic mask and fur bodysuit complete with beastly ears. Rich purples and deep hues of black dominated during the first act, but then light coloured, golden costumes brighten the show when the curse is lifted. We counted at least 4 costume changes for the Beast/Prince and 3 for Belle!
- The Beast’s scorched costume
- Sparkling Raven’s all black look & his accompanying female ravens, complete with beak headdresses
- Belle’s glittering tutu dress
- The 18th Century inspired dresses of the Sisters & wedding guests took on a comedic appeal with their extroverted details.
Birmingham Royal Ballet’s company is full of talented ballet dancers and the audience is treated to an array of styles. Each character has a signature move, like Belle’s bourrees, the sisters’ feet flicking, the Beast’s floor-based movements and beating across his chest. Here are our dance highlights from the show:
- Quintet dance of the Prince with his riders. The entire audience was wowed by the dancing representation of horse riding that the huntsmen portrayed spectacularly.
- Group formation dance of the ravens. We particularly loved how the female company totally embodied the birds with their chaotic head gestures surveying the woods and upstretched arm positions like real birds. The dancers really captured the essence of dark ravens casting off in menacing flight.
- Animal waltz. The ball is especially memorable because of the almost robotic waltzing juxtaposed to the wild movements that the characters transition into to represent their animal states.
- Beast dancing with Wild Girl and also Belle. The Beast danced several times throughout the Ballet with female partners. The effortless overhead lifts that often ended in poses on the floor (whilst still holding the female partner) were exquisite. We especially loved the moments when dreamy lifts made it seem as though someone had froze the pair in time mid-lift. To fully appreciate these moments, you really need to see the ballet for yourself.
- Beast’s tortured dance at loss of Belle. This contemporary dance saw a tormented Beast tearing his hands across his chest and throwing himself into a dance of turmoil with such emotion and precision.
- Belle & Beast’s entwined first pas de deux as humans. We fell in love with this duet as Belle and the Prince did with each other.
Impeccable expressive miming drives the plot and makes the story more tangible. Pantomime highlights are created by Belle’s Sisters (who resemble the Ugly Sisters in Cinderella), a near-blind grandma who nearly walks off the edge of the stage at curtain draw in jest and swine-looking suitor Monsieur Cochon of the Sisters with his petit-battements and mid-air beating. The glutinous guests of the banquet were also very skilled at simulating chewing and drinking, which really incited an overwhelming reaction in the audience at the diners’ unrefined insatiability.
Mark Jonathan’s lighting is what ensures this performance of Beauty and the Beast is properly received as gothic as opposed to dreary. Some of the key lighting moments were:
- Purplish and bluish light shrouds the Woodsman in mystery
- Flashing lights create distressing storms
- Reflective aquatic light symbolises the magic mirror and allows for split scenes
- The near-blackened stage when Beast’s body is carried in
- Spotlighting focuses in on treasured pas de deux and solos
- Gold lighting depicts the Beast’s transformation, especially when the curtains are torn from the castle windows and leafy sunlight filters through. We were touched by the final moments of golden light as Belle and the Prince walk hand in hand into their heavenly future together, facing away from the audience as they walk away.
Glenn Buhr’s score for the show features dissonant tuning-up sounds along with delicate and rich music to really punctuate each part of the performance. The music was generally delightful to listen to, but there were of course a few standout moments for us. Explosive percussion adds a staccato effect to each one of the Beast’s moves as he tears across the stage. Violins simulate the flight of the ravens as their delicate arms beat in flight. Glockenspiels and xylophones signify the coming of magic. Violent brass and drums reach a crescendo point with the resurrection of the Beast. Gentle harps and woodwind sweeten Belle’s dainty steps. Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Beauty and the Beast is truly a celebration of the arts!
Belle | Yvette Knight
Beast | Brandon Lawrence
Vanité | Yijing Zhang
Fière | Daria Stanciulescu
The Woodsman | Jonathan Payn
Monsieur Cochon | Tom Rogers
Wild Girl | Miki Mizutani
Raven | Lachlan Monaghan