Hit gangster drama, Peaky Blinders, aired for 6 seasons to worldwide acclaim. Fans followed gang leader, Thomas Shelby, against the backdrop of a post-war industrial revolution on the streets of Birmingham as he and his gang forged ahead in a world built on corruption and violence.
As Britain’s oldest dance company, Rambert built their reputation on showcasing the best of British ballet before turning their hands to a more contemporary approach. A move which has cemented their position as one of the premier touring dance companies in the UK today. Taking on the cultural powerhouse of Peaky Blinders with Rambert: Peaky Blinders: The Redemption of Thomas Shelby just proves it.
Some people may be surprised at the melding of the two worlds – Peaky Blinders and Dance – but for those fortunate enough to see it, they’ll see it for the triumph of dance theatre that it is.
The first act opens in a blaze of music (courtesy of the onstage band), gunfire, and some of the violence which the TV show became known for. Performed on a raised stage with a tunnel effect built into it, the dancers are able to create a more immersive 3-dimensional experience for the audience as they travel from the First World War, to a day at the races ( complete with carousel horses), and on to a wedding before a dramatic turning point resulting in a dead bride ends the act.
There are some excellent individual performances here. Guillaume Quéau brings all the physicality and masculinity a character like Thomas Shelby requires. Likewise, Naya Lovell moves with the kind of lightness of touch and precision as Grace that is impossible to look away from, and Musa Motha shows why he is already an international award-winning amputee dancer as Barney. However, it’s in the ensemble pieces when the stage really comes to life. The roaring ’20’s and the explosive fight scene in the second act highlight Benoit Swan Pouffer’s, engaging choreography to its best.
As the second act begins the audience find Thomas Shelby addicted to opium. The movement of his fellow ‘opium eaters’ as they lie on bed frames – eerily lit from beneath with just a thin blanket placed over the top – provide one of the most captivating sequences in the whole show. After that though the second act falls away a little, losing some of the impact of the first half had as the show lingers inside Thomas Shelby’s mind for perhaps a shade too long.
With the aforementioned fight scene making full use of the clever staging and a finale performed to the iconic theme song – Red Right Hand by Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds – the show does end on a high note. Although dance purists may be challenged by the merging of two seemingly opposing worlds, Rambert: Peaky Blinders: The Redemption of Thomas Shelby may just widen the appeal of contemporary dance to new audiences.