All entries for Wednesday 02 July 2008

July 02, 2008

Giselle @ Birmingham Hippodrome and Brief Encounter @ The Cinema Haymarket

Two shows this weekend just gone, neither of which I'm going to do full reviews of. Partly this is because they were a birthday present for my partner, and I don't want to distract from a lovely weekend, and partly because I don't have the appropriate vocabulary to review the first and I'd already seen the second. However, a quick mention of both of them for the records doesn't seem out of order.

First up was Birmingham Royal Ballet's Giselle at the Hippodrome. This was, in point of fact, my first professional ballet, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Funnily enough, considering that I was coming from a theatre background, it was actually the non-narrative sections I got the most out of, when the dancers were just dancing. The dancers representing the departed souls who haunted the graveyard where Giselle was buried in the second half were absolutely superb, creating a mesmerising display of the supernatural, and the desperate dancing of our hero Albrecht with the ghost of his lover was particularly moving. The whole thing was very well done, and there was plenty to keep the Saturday matinee audience entertained, from the fabulous folk-ballet in the first half to the appearance of live dogs and a huge horse with a hunting party. While it's hardly converted me from theatre (the more narrative sequences, where they communicated via dumb-show and sign-language, were a little frustrating!), I'm pleased to have finally seen a decent ballet and must make a mental note to head over to the BRB more often.

This was followed on Sunday by a trip to London for Kneehigh's Brief Encounter, which I originally reviewed here when it previewed at Birmingham Rep. It was as excellent as I remembered, despite a couple of changes - Amanda Lawrence has moved on (though her replacement is more than capable) and Stanley's trampoline removed. The venue added a huge deal to the production though - taking place in the old Cinema Haymarket (where the film originally premiered), it gave an unsettlingly genuine feel to those scenes where Laura and Alec visited the cinema, as well as giving the film segments a fitting home. The production was only scheduled to run for four weeks when it started there, so the fact it's currently booking into the autumn is testament to how good a production they've pulled together. It'll be interesting to see how Kneehigh respond to this kind of playing - and the attention it brings them - but if nothing else it should bankroll their projects for the next few years...

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Peter Kirwan is Teaching Associate in Shakespeare and Early Modern Drama at the University of Nottingham and a reviewer of Shakespearean theatre for several academic journals.

The Bardathon is his experimental review blog, covering productions of (or based on) all early modern plays. The aim is to combine immediate reactions with the detail and analysis of the academic review.

Theatre criticism always needs more voices. Please comment with your own views and contributions!

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