The Shelbys are back in Brum, where they belong. This week sees the homecoming of what’s popularly touted as the Peaky Blinders ballet but is, in fact, so much more.
Rambert Dance’s The Redemption of Thomas Shelby, written by series creator Steven Knight and choreographed by the company’s Artistic Director Benoit Swan Pouffer, began life last September at Birmingham Hippodrome. Now, it’s back at the theatre after a UK tour for a finely honed final run (for now, at least) only ten minutes from the Garrison pub where the gang once held sway.
The storyline stretches over the show’s first three seasons, opening as the brothers Shelby emerge from the Great War tunnels and trenches of the front alive, but dead inside after the horrors they have endured. From the off, French dancer Guillaume Quéau plays a blinder.
His tour de force Tommy is a commanding figure, his performance extraordinary, both demanding and deserving rapt audience attention. The boys are soon back in Brum to run sister Ada and aunt Polly’s illicit bookie business – cleverly depicted by a fairground carousel caper – brushing aside opposition from the establishment and rival gangs.
Visceral fight scenes are dramatic, all light and shadow, and set to loud rock riffs from a tight trio playing live at the back of the stage, on any other night their searing set worth the price of admission in its own right. It’s during the gangland brawls that South African amputee Musa Motha, who has only one leg and dances with a crutch, turns in the first of many extraordinary performances which see him run Quéau close as the star of this show.
Tommy’s infatuation with chanteuse Grace – danced with stylish sensuality by Naya Lovell – is played out to new music by Brummie Laura Mvula. It’s too good to last, of course, the first act ending with the tragic blood wedding of the star-crossed lovers.
The pace slows in the second act as Tommy, suffocating in grief, seeks solace in opium yet it’s during his delirium that we see some of the most remarkable dance, Quéau quite literally playing to his strengths. With a choice to be made between life and death, the rest of the action sees the return of the Peaky Blinders and a final reckoning with Aishwarya Raut’s wild Widow Changretta that leads to fresh tragedy for the Shelby family.
Throughout, the dancing is spectacular, a recipe blending contemporary spice with dashes of ballet, flamenco, street and freestyle. There’s never a dull moment – keep an eye on the back of the stage at all times.
Narrated by Benjamin Zephaniah, the production is soundtracked by songs from the likes of Radiohead, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, The Last Shadow Puppets, Anna Calvi, and Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes, alongside new music by Roman GianArthur.
What makes this show so breathtakingly brilliant is the organic mix of music and dance. Neither one follows the other, it’s more a seamlessly satisfying union of equal bedfellows. It is, quite simply, sensational.It all ends with – what else? – a reprise of Nick Cave’s iconic Red Right Hand TV theme as the cast assembles onstage for a reunion that packs an emotional punch, the audience erupting in whoops and hollers long before the curtain.
The show runs until May 27 at Birmingham Hippodrome by order of you know who. Beg, borrow or steal a ticket – just make sure it’s not Arthur Shelby’s. For more information and tickets go to: Birmingham Hippodrome Rambert Dance in Peaky Blinders The Redempton of Thomas Shelby