Review: (Un)leashed by Birmingham Royal Ballet

Richard Lutz takes his pew for a triple treat.

Birmingham Royal Ballet returns home to the city-based Hippodrome for a trio of pieces, all choreographed by women.

Standout in this show, which comes under the umbrella title of (Un)leashed an d runs through the weekend, is undoubtedly a visceral thirty- minuter called Sense of Time, by Dutch artist Didy Veldman. She studies how we all treat that ticking clock in our heads. Her troupe, on a bare stage set against an eye-opening wall of suitcases (see above) that spins like hands on a watch, delivers a half hour of fluid, non-stop movement up, in, on and behind this set design which can become an obstacle, a division, a climbing frame and, as it spins, a set change. 

Jarring music, sometimes jazz, sometimes Frank Zappa-like, sometimes modern classical, is by Gabriel Prokofiev, grandson of the famous Russian composer. It all adds up to a riveting performance of how we all are pushed and pulled by the ticking of the clock.

On to more standard material and choreographer Ruth Brill, who used to dance with the BRB, uses Prokofiev Snr (ie Sergei) for her Peter and The Wolf. She grabs the rural childlike tale and firmly places it in downtown Urbanville.

Dancers mix classical with street style, climb a simple scaffold (below) or slam on headphones to narrate the tale of a little boy and how he outwitted his big, nasty lupine foe. The engaging Prokofiev score is lifted by the onstage antics of the Cat, the Bird and the Duck (and, or course, that Wolf) just as the composer intended to give each instrument in the piece an animal to imitate. Cute stuff. Good for kids; a pair of little girls weari ng fairy dresses in the row next to me were entranced.

The third of the trio is Lyric Pieces by Jessica Lang, which graced the Birmingham stage earlier in the decade. It uses short pieces by Edvard Grieg to form an elegant performance full of style, muted colours and a fantastic series of folding paper that transforms into walls, bridges, a fan, tunnels and, I think in one instance, a snake. 

Three pieces then, all with strengths and  seductively contrasting styles.

Until 15th June. Tickets