Aladdin, Birmingham Royal Ballet, BRB, London Coliseum, March 2013Posted on 22 March 2013
While Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland plays at Covent Garden, the Birmingham Royal Ballet brings David Bintley’s new Aladdin to the London Coliseum. The former is sold out, and the latter deserves to be too, because both are equally great fun though entirely different.
Aladdin is a ripping yarn based on those Tales of the Arabian Nights, and its luminous story-telling, with a big pas-de-deux for Aladdin and the Princess in each of the three acts, allows more space for classical dancing than Alice. It all starts in the market place, reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet, and the multiple dances of Act I recalled the second act of Nutcracker. Aladdin’s dispatch of the magician in Act III reminded me of the Tsarevich and Kashchei in Firebird, and these allusions point to the fact that this array of classical dancing is a feast for the eyes.
Excellent sets by Dick Bird, and the costumes by Sue Blane are lovely — Persian and Ottoman concepts with a splash of Far Eastern magic, perhaps suiting the fact that this ballet was first produced in Japan. With that audience in mind, Bintley relied more on his choreography than on big acting performances, and the whole thing is a wonderfully exuberant show of dance. Mark Jonathan’s lighting helps draw out the magic, and the costume and make-up for the magician made him look like an ancient Sumerian god, which if intentional is a very clever touch.
The whole company danced with great élan, and Jamie Bond and Jenna Roberts made a delightful couple as Aladdin and the Princess, dancing a thrillingly joyful pas-de-deux in Act II. Tzu-Chao Chou was a remarkably airborne Djinn of the Lamp, and his Act II leap above the heads of four men who then hold him up high in a sitting position was a wonder to be seen. Iain Mackay as the magician showed marvellous stage presence with his gliding movements, and Marion Tait as Aladdin’s mother was as ever a musical delight.
The music itself by Carl Davis creates a magical atmosphere already in the overture, and this is a case where choreography and music were created to complement one another. There is not a dull moment, and the orchestra played beautifully under the baton of Philip Davis.
With four more performances in London, two of them matinees, this is a must-see. Do not be put off by associating this to a well known pantomime of the same name. Yes, there is a magic carpet and they float back home after escaping from the magician’s lair, but this is classical ballet with a swing in its step. Performances at the London Coliseum continue until March 24 — for details click here.