“By order of the Peaky Blinders!”
I was lucky enough to be invited to go and review Rambert Dance in Peaky Blinders: The Redemption of Thomas Shelby at the Wales Millennium Centre. Joining us from its London premier and sold-out shows in Birmingham, the Rambert Dance company brings an entrancing, immersive and intoxicating performance inspired by the award-winning TV series set in postwar Birmingham. We follow the dark, tragic story of Thomas Shelby as he emerges from the fog of war, doing what he can to pull himself back into reality and claim what is left of his sanity. A moving performance of love and loss, old friends and new foes, that you can’t look look away from.
To develop a show like this from a series like Peaky Blinders is rare. For those of you who have seen the violent gangster series it seems unlikely that they would fit together. But with the phenomenal dual talent of Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight and Director and Choreographer Benoit Swan Pouffer, these two have created something truly magnificent. Bringing together what may seem like an unlikely combination and giving a new strand of life to this infamous story.
From the first note from the onstage band, The Last Morrell, James Douglas and Yaron Engler, (who’s also the shows Musical Director) all your senses are pulled into 1919 Birmingham, with powerful visual effects and striking movements. The smoke covered stage reveals Thomas Shelby’s (portrayed by Guillaume Quéau) time during the war and the haunting memories that follow him home. This show gives the audience a peak inside his mind and the constant inner turmoil to find the strength to fight for the will to keep on going.
The set design and staging, by Moi Tran, was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before and it added a lot of interesting elements and really elevated the impact of both dramatic fight scenes and the more intimate, emotional dances. It allowed the audience to feel even more immersed in the story and gave the larger, ensemble numbers a more dramatic impact.
Without the use of the dialog, this show used other elements to tell the story. The powerful music by Roman Gianarthur, guides us through with a menacing, foreboding score true to the ‘Peaky’ name. Taken through the highs and lows, from the bloody battles to the opium-fuelled haze. You’re kept in time with the story and led through the redemption of Thomas Shelby without missing a beat.
As for the cast, you expect good things, but the talent of this cast is on another level. I, like the rest of the audience, felt hypnotised by their movements, going through a rollercoaster of emotions and unable to look away. Guillaume Quéau (Thomas Shelby) and Naya Lovell, who portrays the love interest, Grace Burgess, have a potent chemistry on stage and the number ‘Tommy and Grace’ sent chills down my spine. Guillaume Quéau had a huge task in stepping into the shoes of this iconic gangster, but he not only successfully gave us the Thomas Shelby we all know and love, but added new depths to his character through his striking performance.
Conor Kerrigan as Arthur Shelby, Musa Motha as Barney, Joseph Kudra as John Shelby, Alex Soulliere as Jeremiah, Simone Damberg Würtz as Polly & The Inspector, Adél Bálint as Ada, Antonello Sangiradi as Changretta and Aishwarya Raunt as Widow Changretta, all commanded the stage and gave a powerful performance that left the audience shocked as the show only got better and better. The rest of the ensemble cast Dylan Tedaldi, Max Day, Seren Williams, Archie White, Caití Carpenter, Cali Hollister, Angélique Blasco and Jonathan Wade gave nothing but perfection to each number, creating a powerful atmosphere from start to finish.
Ending as astonishingly as it began, the audience was on their feet in seconds for a well-deserved standing ovation. A powerful story, captivating dance numbers and a cast with talent you won’t stop talking about, this show is a must-see. You won’t be disappointed!
Rambert Dance in Peaky Blinders: The Redemption of Thomas Shelby will be at the Wales Millennium Centre until the 25th March, so get your tickets on their website now…by order of the Peaky Blinders!
All photo credits to Johan Presson
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