David Bintley’s admired and much-loved ballet based on the Thomas Hardy novel of the same name appeared at the Birmingham Hippodrome for a handful of days, which is a great pity, since the piece has not been seen in the city for some years and so deserved a much longer season.
Bintley has created a masterpiece which richly deserves all the affection the public has lavished on the ballet since it premiered in Birmingham in 1996. It is easier to speak generously of great ballets like this, than to name the special qualities that have earned them this affection.
But one of the things that remain memorable is the late Paul Reade’s glorious music which defines Hardy’s landscape and the emotions of those who people it, in a way which lifts this ballet into an affair of the heart and mind.
Hardy was a pessimist and certain of his characters seem to lack the moral courage to face their problems, and thus pay a terrible price for this destructive absence of will. A case in point is the wealthy Farmer Boldwood, firmly danced by Tyrone Singleton.
Boldwood pursues Bathsheba (the superb Natasha Oughtred), relentlessly urging her to marry him.
The grim, beautifully-structured sequence where Boldwood is confronted by the Bathsheba’s new husband, the philandering military man Sergeant Troy, (danced with compelling passion by Jamie Bond) suggests a clear pathway to murder, which Bintley shapes perfectly. Only Gabriel Oak (stylish dancing from Mathias Dingman) is a rock in Hardy’s drastic human storm.
Bintley’s imaginative interludes of traditional dances are continually exquisite and filled with invention, meantime, beyond the huge beams of Hayden Griffin’s permanent set, the opal skies of a late summer evening fill with large moons (fine lighting by Mark Jonathan) and suddenly a summer circus arrives.
Thus a pattern of 19th century rural England, naive, tight-lipped and judgemental, is shaped and coloured in by the company dancers. Clearly Bintley is a genius and thus I designate him.
* Until Saturday.