The Dream/A Month in the Country – Birmingham Royal Ballet

Published
18/02/2016 by

Whatever spells are being woven in this particular greenwood, none can compare with the alchemy that springs forth from the wand of arch choreographer Frederick Ashton.

There can be no more apt a title than The Dream, for that is precisely what it is… a bewitching 54 minutes that has us spellbound and happy to be lost deep in William Shakespeare’s mythical Arden forest.

Once again, we dig deep for yet more superlatives to describe the first production in a series of ballets to mark the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s ascent to literary immortality.

There was without any shadow of a doubt greatness in the air on this opening night as the dancers rose to the occasion, giving hearts and souls to the cause as if their very lives depended on it.

Right from the opening moments, Joseph Caley delivers an eerily ethereal Oberon, a latter-day Rudolf Valentino of the boards, his conspiratorial designs brimming with pathos and feeling. 

Fittingly, he is superbly and intoxicatingly partnered by Nao Sakuma as Titania, the role a glittering shop window that displays the whole range of a flawless technique that has enraptured Birmingham Royal Ballet audiences for many years.

Ashton’s genius has many component parts, not least of which is his knack of injecting humour and wit into a role, hence his wise choice of Mathias Dingman as an electrically-charged Puck, who is everything that a woodland sprite should be and more.

Nevertheless, the comic crown should anoint the ass’s head worn so proudly by Jonathan Caguioa, because nearly every move he made as Bottom brought forth the giggles of an audience perhaps not necessarily used to laughing out loud in the presence of high art.

This ballet was an absolute winner, John Lanchbery’s arrangement of Mendelssohn’s immortal music combining with Peter Farmer’s dream-soaked designs and John B. Read’s lighting to complete this night of time and heart-stopping sorcery.

Ashton’s second offering to this already bursting treasure chest of balletic riches is A Month in the Country, a torrid tale of bottled longing and the infidelity that is sometimes its inevitable result.

The arrival of a dashingly handsome young tutor - played with great verve and panache by Iain Mackay – throws an entire household into turmoil when the unhappy wife becomes entranced by his charms.

Enter Delia Mathews as the lovelorn Natalia, who delivers such a tour de force of a performance that is seems hardly likely that she will remain a middle-ranking soloist for much longer, promotion surely being her reward for such a display of unbridled talent.

Her ability to act a role from deep within her being meant that her pas des deux with Mackay had the air crackling with static, while the hapless husband, portrayed with ever-saddening resignation by Michael O’Hare, can only look on and plan a future without his errant wife.

Another one to watch is first artist Karla Doorbar as Vera, Natalia’s ward. She is also infatuated with the troublesome tutor, along with the maid Katia, a role that is also imbued with great energy by Yvette Knight.

I have no doubt that the future will hold great things in store for these three young rising stars and I look forward to their ascent through the company’s ranks in the not-too-distant future.