‘Peaky Blinders – The Redemption of Thomas Shelby’Rambert Dance at the Royal & Derngate Northampton

“Young men of the tunnelling brigade, you are all dead. Not counted among the dead because your bodies were not buried with the dead. But dead inside..”

Steven Knight, the superb writer of the original drama series, together with the extremely talented choreographer Benoit Swan Pouffer have created an absolute stylistic masterpiece! Rambert Dance Company beautifully communicate their characters through dance in this exquisite rendition of the earlier series of the ‘Peaky Blinders’. With sensational choreography, music lighting and costumes that are all equally as powerful, this show is one that will live on long after you watch it.

Curtains up. Haze fills the stage and through the mist, bodies start to emerge – silhouettes in the fog. Bodies depicting the tunnellers of World War One. Disjointed movements, pained and damaged the dancers set a chilling tone from the off-set. A moody yellow wash floods the stage through the smoke as the sound of a raucous siren supports the growing tension. Unnerving and thrilling, the start was but the tip of the iceberg.

As the lights grow in intensity Thomas Shelby, played by the phenomenal Joseph Kudra appears…

On a gathering storm comes

A tall handsome man

In a dusty black coat

With a red right hand.

The band are in full view and the wounded soldiers showcase a suspenseful rendition of their time in the war. The blood shed. The pain; physically and mentally. The representation of the trauma sets a narrative thread that runs throughout; an exploration of the war’s legacy for the Shelby family. Bold and heartbreaking this eerie opening scene leaves you wanting to see more.

Shelby and his associates join together to begin their money making scheme as the three-piece band’s grungy ‘Factory’ floods the auditorium. The smoky Black Country streets and industrial landscape compliment the stage-combat style ensemble piece, which are cleverly contrasted by the splendour seen in the following vibrant fairground scene where we see the Peaky Blinders make their mark. Through the isles they came and created an immersive environment for the audience, further adding to the thrill. ‘New Management’ played as the colourful bright lights and large glittering carousel horses juxtaposed the flat-cap wearing, suited gangsters.

A shadow is cast wherever he stands

Stacks of green paper

In his red right hand.

The dance numbers were timed to perfection, no movement without its purpose and a variety of styles creating differing environments, tones and atmospheres. The romantic portrayal of Tommy’s relationship with Grace, played by the superb Seren Williams was playful and moving. The sensational choreography saw Tommy physically blindfolded throughout a duet. Superbly executed, this pair brought a raw and delicate essence to the otherwise intense piece.

A notable moment was that of the police dog chase. Costume designer Richard Gellar was brave in his depiction of the dogs who were dancers dressed head to toe in brown leather with pricked up large ears and movements that fitted seamlessly into the scene. This high octane chase was yet another moment of tension that added to this exhilarating spectacle.

The first half of the storytelling was fast-paced and gritty. The physicality of the dancers evoked feelings of power and conflict, division and devastation. Act Two gave a more reflective ambience with a change of choreographic pace and motion.

A poignant solo saw softer transitions, smooth lines and a much slower pace. Was this the start of the end?

As we tentatively watch Tommy’s demise we are forced to become bystanders in his war against himself. Our senses bombarded as metal beds with LED lighting underneath scattered the stage as smoke appeared from beneath the sheets depicting the inhalation of opium. Roman Gian Arthur’s atmospheric music, so perfectly placed, disturbing and turbulent whilst Natasha Chiver’s lighting was appropriately dingy and unpleasant. The dancers all desperately try to escape the entrapment of the bedsheets before giving in. The next 5 minutes had me stunned, static and in awe of the unique and bold portrayal of this downward spiral. Purple filled the stage as petals fell over head. we hear Benjamin Zephania’s pre-recorded voice… ‘He chose death’.

The scenes that followed saw the return of the Peaky Blinders as a unit, saving Tommy. Is it being saved if you’re already dead inside? The pace picked up and the fighting was back, but “every action has consequences” and consequences there were.

You’re one microscopic cog

In his catastrophic plan

Designed and directed

By his red right hand.

From the exceptional performers to the pyrotechnics, this show was sensational. Storytelling at its finest, this production exceeds expectations on every level.

‘Peaky Blinders – The redemption of Thomas Shelby’  can be viewed at the Royal & Derngate until Saturday 25th February; you don’t want to miss this sensational production.

Tickets can be booked by calling the Royal & Derngate Box Office on 01604 624811 or online at http://www.royalandderngate.co.uk

Review written by Rachel Carnell: The Travel Locker Press Team