IDFB 2014: The Lord of the Flies by Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures

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Upon first learning that Matthew Bourne’s Lord of the Flies was coming to the Birmingham Hippodrome as part of the International Dance Festival 2014, it was almost impossible to imagine what a ballet interpretation of William Golding’s iconic, dystopian novel might look like. In theory, the two seem rather an odd combination, yet in practice, together they work amazingly well.

Less a traditional ballet than a kind of silent play with dancing, this New Adventures’ adaptation manages to get right to the heart of Golding’s story. At times, the dancers are menacing, unleashing the darkness of human nature in cleverly choreographed fights, hunts and tribal rituals. On the other hand, the more playful movements and sequences serve as a continual reminder of the innocence and vulnerability of the characters: as terribly as they behave, the show refuses to let us forget that its subjects are ultimately only children, left to fend for themselves with no adult support or guidance. As Golding’s daughter, Judy writes in the programme,

“children are entitled to the protection of adults – protection not only from a hostile world, but also from their own natures. It isn’t fair that Ralph and Jack and Piggy and Simon have to do without adults.”

Lord of the Flies

Perhaps the production’s most disturbing aspect is its strong militaristic undercurrent, present right from the very beginning with a long, disciplined march that takes place before the boys become stranded. This theme emerges again in the form of the khaki-clad ghost seen by Simon, and at the end of the show, when the children are finally rescued: looking like a modern British soldier, their disturbed saviour could easily have walked right out of a conflict in the Middle East. This reflects ideas explored in the original novel, which set during a wartime evacuation, and was partly inspired by Golding’s own first-hand experience of brutality in war.

Danny Reubens is fantastically sinister as Jack, managing to induce fear, yet also to arouse pity, in viewers: he is instinctively aggressive, but also immature and desperate for the admiration of the other boys. Jack and his thuggish friend Roger (Dan Wright)  are brilliantly off-set by Dominic North as the good-natured Ralph, along with his hapless friends Piggy and Simon, played by Sam Plant and Layton Williams. But it wasn’t just the New Adventures dancers who were impressive: the young, local cast were amazing, quickly proving themselves more than capable of keeping up with the professionals.

Lord of the Flies

Throughout the show, the performers managed to strike a great balance between complex dancing and physical storytelling, portraying the characters and their journey with perfect clarity. As someone who has never read the original novel, I had no trouble understanding the plot. This is, perhaps, dance at its most accessible, for both audiences and performers alike.

Click here for more information about the International Dance Festival Birmingham 2014, which continues until the end of next week.

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All Singing, All Dancing – 2014 at the Birmingham Hippodrome

Having ended a hugely successful 2013 with record-breaking Christmas panto attendance (over 115,000 people saw the show), the Birmingham Hippodrome is now dancing and singing its way into the new year with tons of exciting ballet and musical shows, beginning with a run of Matthew Bourne’s acclaimed Swan Lake production, which opens at the theatre tonight.

Matthew Bourne's SWAN LAKE. 15-12-2009

Following several previous sell-out seasons at the Hippodrome, Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake is returning for a two-week run, from Wednesday 5th – Saturday 15th February. Widely considered to be a “modern-day classic”, Bourne’s reinterpretation of the original ballet sees the traditional female cast replaced by an all-male ensemble. The iconic production has so far received over 30 international theatre awards, including three Tony Awards. Said Bourne of his return to Birmingham:

Birmingham Hippodrome continues to be one of the most important dance venues in the country and has some of the best facilities for dancers.  I am privileged and thankful to have such a strong relationship with all at Birmingham Hippodrome and the audience who have been so supportive of my work and my Company.”

This current season will see the Prince played by returning dancers Simon Williams and Sam Archer, as well as Liam Mower, who will be making his debut in the role. The Olivier Award-winning Mower previously starred in the original West End run of Billy Elliot.

In addition to the main production, audience members attending on Thursday 13th February will also have the chance to see a special “curtain raiser” performance by students from Stratford-Upon-Avon College, Walsall College and Birmingham Ormiston Academy. Inspired by Swan Lake, this five-minute show will be performed by 19 students who, over the past few months, have been working closely with Dominic North, one of Matthew Bourne’s principal dancers, and Clare Palethorpe, a freelance dance practitioner. To see get a sneak preview behind the scenes of the show, check out the official Hippodrome blog.

If you’re attending the show, don’t forget to tweet @brumhippodrome about your experience, using the hashtag #BHSwans. If you’ve been lucky enough to grab yourself £5 First Night tickets, please give us your thoughts on the scheme here.

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Following on from Swan Lake, an exciting new production of Fiddler on the Roof will be showing from Tuesday 11th – Saturday 15th March. The nine time Tony Award-winning musical is amongst Broadway’s longest running shows, and is filled with instantly recognisable songs such as If I Were A Rich Man, Matchmaker Matchmaker, To Life, Tradition and Sunrise Sunset.

This latest production is directed and choreographed by Strictly Come Dancing’s Craig Revel Horwood and stars Paul Michael Glaser (Starsky & Hutch) as Tevye, a local milkman whose traditional ideals are challenged when his headstrong daughters decide to marry for love, rather than accept the advice of Yente the Matchmaker. Glaser also featured in the 1971 film adaptation of the show, as the student and Bolshevik revolutionary Perchik. Sarah Travis is the production’s musical director and set and costume are designed by Diego Pitarch. Said Executive Producer John Stalker:

We are thrilled to welcome Paul Michael Glaser to the iconic and starring role of Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof. It is a part he has longed to play for years and that he has chosen to realise his dream in this new production from Craig Revel Horwood for Music & Lyrics is both humbling and tremendously exciting. Musical theatre lovers the length and breadth of the UK and Ireland are in for a very special treat and we expect demand for tickets to be high”.

Tickets for Fiddler on the Roof cost £15-£37 with some £5 tickets available for those aged 16-23 as part of the First Night scheme. Please let us know if you are using the scheme. To book, call 0844 338 5000 or visit the Birmingham Hippodrome website.

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In May, Matthew Bourne will be directing a second production at the Hippodrome, his large-scale dance spectacular, The Lord of the Flies. The production will be showing from Wednesday 14th until Saturday 17th May as part of the International Dance Festival Birmingham 2014.

Presented by New Adventures in partnership with Re:Bourne, and choreographed by Olivier Award nominee Scott Ambler, the show will bring together professional dancers with young people from the West Midlands region. Professional dancers will include Sam Archer as ‘Maurice’, Luke Murphy as ‘Sam’, Dominic North as ‘Ralph’, Sam Plant as ‘Piggy’, Alastair Postlethwaite as ‘Eric’, Danny Reubens as ‘Jack’ and Dan Wright as ‘Roger’. The young cast will be unique to each venue on the production’s tour, The full cast for the Birmingham Hippodrome performance has yet to be announced. The show will also feature music by Terry Davies and set and costume design by Olivier-Award winner Lez Brotherston. Its touring directors are New Adventures principal dancers Adam Galbraith and Alan Vincent.

Tickets for The Lord of the Flies are priced at £15-£36 and can be booked by calling the box office on 0844 338 5000, or by visiting the Hippodrome’s website.

Finally, if you’re a user of the Hippodrome’s First Night scheme for 16-23 year olds, we’d love to hear your thoughts. The Hippodrome’s current First Night Bloggers have designed this quick survey to find out how you use the scheme and what shows you’d like to see more of, to help the Hippodrome to keep making things even better for you. If you have the time, please take a moment to fill it out. Thanks for your help!