Guest review by Leila Howl
Review of Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Swan Lake*
It was Saturday afternoon at the Birmingham Hippodrome, and I was fondly recalling the magic of the Nutcracker as a child. We decided that our trip to the ballet was well overdue when my grandmother chipped in with flashbacks to Margot Fonteyn at Covent Garden for half a crown**. With the Royal Ballet now comfortably based in Birmingham we had little excuse not to come, although the joys of inflation meant that our tickets were somewhat more expensive (by a factor of almost 500 for my grandmother)!
From the moment the lights dimmed and the excellent Symphonia struck the first chords of Tchaikovsky’s haunting score, the effect was captivating. The stunning court costumes and choreography were enhanced by clever lighting and deceptively simple scenery.
The dancing, of course, was beautiful. Initially I was concerned that Mathias Dingman as Benno might outshine the Prince himself, with his powerful grande jetes and double cabrioles, but Joseph Caley made an elegant Sigfried and gained prominence throughout the performance, both in his own movements and as support for the many lifts and holds required in the latter scenes.
Despite the perfect synchronicity of the cygnets and the wonderfully disdainful foreign princesses, the highlight of the show was definitely Momoko Hirata as Odette/Odile. Her willowy frame made the perfect swan-like figure, but the delicate movements clearly belied a phenomenal strength that kept her performance seamless and strong throughout.
Overall the performance was enchanting, and our seats excellent. My only issue arose when the gentlemen directly in front of me sat down, and I wondered if being 5’2″ was good enough reason to ask for a child’s booster seat! But as I could still see the majority of the stage, and my very kind (and fractionally taller) mother swapped seats with me at the interval, the issue was a minor one. We left unanimously contented, calculating when our next visit could be, and how long until my three year old daughter can join us to make her own memories of the magic of the ballet.
* Matinee performance, 3rd October 2015
**Although Saddler’s Wells in the gods for 1/6d. at was apparently more usual fare.