Grand Tour/ Faster/ The Dream, Birmingham Royal Ballet, BRB, Sadler’s Wells, October 2012

The Grand Tour, a charming ballet by Joe Layton based on Noël Coward’s 1930s transatlantic trip on a liner, is to music by Coward himself, adapted and orchestrated by Hershy Kay.

The Grand Tour, all images BRB/ Roy Smiljanic

It’s a colourful ballet with lovely designs by John Conklin, well lit by Peter Teigen, and in this cast the most striking performer was Laura-Jane Gibson as one of the two stowaways — she was super fun. A fine start to this triple bill Autumn Celebration, but it was overshadowed by the next two ballets.

Faster/ Gittins and Singleton

Faster is David Bintley’s response to the 2012 Olympic Games, a bravura display of athleticism, whose title recalls the Olympic motto ‘Faster, Higher, Stronger’. The music in three movements by Matthew Hindson was thrillingly conducted by Philip Ellis, and the dancers excelled themselves in the energetic choreography, making it look far easier than it is, and some of it was tough indeed. The wonderful costumes by Becs Andrews involved changes that gave the ballet huge scope, and in the final movement the colours were glorious.

Performances by the whole cast were so good it is hard to pick out individuals, but the contest with injury in the second movement was superbly performed by Céline Gittins and Tyrone Singleton. His pose at the end was a fitting moment of success, and then just before the curtain lowers he crouches down as if on starting blocks ready to do it all again. Unmissable. Pity the Olympic celebrations didn’t use Bintley’s work, or even just a part of it, as this was far better than anything in the closing ceremony.

Finally came The Dream, with Tzu-Chao Chou as a spectacular Puck, a will-o’-the-wisp who could do real magic, conjuring spinning turns out of thin air. He was fabulous, and the rest of the cast were excellent. William Bracewell as Oberon showed a lovely line, and Natasha Oughtred made a pretty Titania. The lovers were entirely convincing, the fairies delightful, the rustics super fun, and Feargus Campbell as Bottom made a glorious ass, his pointe work done to perfection.

Bracewell and Oughtred as Oberon and Titania

This Ashton ballet works like a charm when done well, and its performance here could hardly have been better. Philip Ellis conducted with a light touch and excellent feel for Mendelssohn’s music, drawing beautiful sounds from the girls’ voices of the Birmingham Cathedral Choir. Performances of one-act narrative ballets don’t get any better than this — it was a delight.

Performances of this triple bill continue until October 27 at Sadler’s Wells, and on October 30–31 at the Wales Millennium Centre — for details click here.

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