The second programme in Birmingham Royal Ballet's season in Birmingham, London and Plymouth - Shadows of War, is a mixed bill featuring three pieces of dance on the theme of conflict.
Kenneth MacMillan's La Fin du jour captures the glamorous 'la plage' lifestyle of the depression era. A group of trendy, bright young things while away their days with swimming, golf and new-fangled aeroplanes. They studiously ignore the looming threat of war which will eventually call time on their careless enjoyment and high spirits.
Robert Helpmann's (Royal Ballet dancer and the Child Catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) 1944 ballet Miraclein the Gorbals was a great leap forward for British ballet. Set in a run-down and dangerous Glasgow suburb, it dispensed with all the frippery of traditional ballets, replacing it with a gritty realism that proved an enormous success.
After the shock of a girl's suicide, the arrival of a mysterious stranger who is able to bring her back to life creates waves among the violent inhabitants of the tenements. This ground-breaking dance drama is being re-created by Dame Gillian Lynne (a member of the original cast), using original set designs by Edward Burra, a leading 20th-century British artist.
David Bintley's Flowers of the Forest is a ballet in two parts. Set to music by Malcolm Arnold,'Four Scottish Dances' presents a light-hearted and nostalgic, 'picture postcard' view of Scotland, whilst 'Scottish Ballad' strikes a more serious note, and is danced to a folk-inspired score by the young Benjamin Britten.
The composer's pacifist views found voice in this piece, which takes its title from the famous ballad for the flower of Scottish youth slain on Flodden Field.
'MacMillan at his best' The Guardian on La Fin du jour
'Rare and beautiful' The Birmingham Post on La Fin du jour
'A marvellous instance of Bintley's particular genius' The Birmingham Post on Flowers of the Forest
'A sensational modern allegory, brilliantly executed and staged' The Daily Express, c1947, on Miracle in the Gorbals