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Review: Rambert Dance in Peaky Blinders: The Redemption of Thomas Shelby – Mayflower Theatre, Southampton

I IMAGINE regular viewers of the BBC series find the idea of a dance version of the show rather preposterous.

Rather like a Muppets version of Schindler's List, it's not the most obvious of pairings.

But within the first couple of dance numbers, various people find themselves filled with lead. So far, so PB.

Guillaume Quéau as Thomas Shelby (photo: Johan Persson)
Guillaume Quéau as Thomas Shelby (photo: Johan Persson)

We start as we mean to go on, with thundering guitars and wanton violence as the Shelbys and co survive the First World War, accompanied by Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes' Devil Inside Me and original music by Roman GianArthur.

I don't know how much praise GianArthur has been receiving for this show, but it's surely not enough. His contributions to the atmosphere cannot be overstated, with pulsating, sweeping cello pieces bridging tracks by contemporary artists such as Radiohead, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Nick Cave.

(Photo: Johan Persson)
(Photo: Johan Persson)

The transitions are seamless, and it takes the audience a couple of false starts to realise applause will have to wait until the end of act one.

For those with less than a passing knowledge of the show, be prepared for confusion. My non-Peaky-enlightened company picked up about 60% of the story.

However, story be damned; the choreography and musical performance are astonishing. The live band are tight as a shrunken leotard and fill the Mayflower with bass-heavy purpose while the Rambert Dance faithful throw themselves about with spine-cracking physical abandon.

Musa Motha as Barney (photo: Johan Persson)
Musa Motha as Barney (photo: Johan Persson)

Guillaume Queau as Thomas Shelby gives a muscular showing, particularly during scenes off his nut on opium, and his numbers with the Naya Lovell's Grace Burgess are at once tender and powerful.

Amputee Musa Motha as Barney effortlessly does things on a crutch which few complete-limb dancers would manage easily, while Simone Damburg absolutely dominates as matriarch Polly.

Peaky Blinders is a staggering display of writhing synchronicity – particularly during act two's final fight scene – and soaring musical accompaniment. On their own they'd be masterpieces. Together they're blinding.

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