Review: Birmingham Royal Ballet’s ‘Black Sabbath – The Ballet’

Review: Birmingham Royal Ballet’s ‘Black Sabbath – The Ballet’
Review: Birmingham Royal Ballet’s ‘Black Sabbath – The Ballet’

Black Sabbath – The Ballet has attracted a lot of hype over recent months. Both ballet-goers and Black Sabbath fans have been intrigued by what Birmingham’s premier ballet company will put on stage and how Black Sabbath’s iconic music will be represented by, what some would say, an antithetical art form.

Credit: Johan Persson

The ballet, directed by Carlos Acosta, is split into three 30-minute acts and two 20-minute intervals with each act having a distinct feel and story.

Act 1, choreographed by Raul Reinoso, offers an appropriately punchy introduction. Contemporary, spectacular, unexpected – these were just some of the words that come to mind when describing this Act, titled ‘Heavy Metal Ballet’.  

There were some moments where dancers’ fast movements didn’t feel wholly together as a company but this didn’t detract from the overall enjoyment of the piece and, for us, the introduction to Black Sabbath’s music.

The biggest ‘wow’ moment for the whole ballet came at the end of this Act when the dancers each had a moment to showcase their tricks (including some mind-blowing pirouettes) and at the very end when they all joined in an incredible turning sequence. 

Act 2, titled ‘The Band’ and choreographed by Cassi Abranches, was our favourite of all three acts. Featuring voiceovers from the band and Sharon Osborne, the dancing felt well-rehearsed, unified and told a clear story about both the band’s members and the community of people who fell in love with their music.

Solos by Regan Hutsell and singing by Lachlan Monaghan, a Principal of Birmingham Royal Ballet, were a highlight in this act. If we have anything negative to say here, it’s that they didn’t go on long enough!

Act 3, ‘Everybody is a Fan’, choreographed by Pontus Lidberg, felt the closest to a ‘traditional’ ballet. There were times when this act didn’t have the ‘punch’ of previous acts, but this was a nice contrast for the audience and a moment for members who perhaps hadn’t seen a lot of ballet before to experience some of the more classical movements.

The biggest thrill came towards the end of this act when original Black Sabbath guitarist, Tony Iommi, appeared on stage – much to the excitement of the entire audience who immediately started clapping along as he played his guitar. We don’t imagine Tony will appear at all performances though his feature really ramped up the energy of the ballet for the big finish, with dancers all ‘rocking out’ behind him.

We must mention the incredible guitarist, Marc Hayward, who features in both Acts 1 and 2. He was fully involved in the piece, being lifted in the air by dancers at one point, all while continuing some fantastic guitar playing. The orchestra also, conducted by Christopher Austin, was terrific and really enhanced the immersion of the audience in a new way of experiencing Black Sabbath’s music.

We believe the ballet certainly lived up to the hype surrounding it and, if you can, we urge you to find a way to see this incredible, fresh piece. 

Currently, tickets are sold out but with the show moving on to Plymouth and London, you may be lucky enough to get a ticket before the run finishes on October 21.

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