Review: Peaky Blinders turns to dance on Northampton stage – but does it work?
Britain's oldest dance company Rambert is on a mission to attract new audiences.
So it is easy to see why it embraced the opportunity to adapt cult television hit Peaky Blinders.
There are Peaky Blinders barbers, Peaky Blinder bars, Peaky Blinders clothing brands and even a Peaky Blinders festival.
Adding Peaky Blinders theatre to the list seems like an sure-fire winner to attract ticket buyers who have never seen dance before.
And in this capacity Rambert Dance have exceeded expectations, filling rapturous auditoriums across the country with Peaky Blinders: The Redemption of Thomas Shelby, which currently runs at Royal & Derngate.
An atmospheric, visual cacophony of writhing, pulsating bodies supported by impressive live music and a dramatic fiery set, Rambert definitely appeals to the masses in this spectacular reimagining.
Based loosely on the hugely popular TV show which ran for six series, the dance hones in on Tommy Shelby and his dangerous love affair with treacherous enigma Grace.
But before we reach the heights of their tragic love story, we are plunged into the smoky depths of the First World War trenches as the traumatised Shelby men return from the war "dead inside".
With a lot of plot to race through in the first act, the stage is transformed into a series of locales whizzing from the trenches, to Black Country factories, to the streets of Birmingham, to the racecourse, to a hedonistic nightclub.
Rambert, which is known for its repertoire of abstract works, completely breaks the mould, and literally spells out the plot via the voiceover of TV series regular Benjamin Zephaniah. Each scene, whether it is a sprawling fight with rivals or an (under utilised) gun-clad Aunt Polly taking care of business, is easy to follow and there is little room for interpretation.
Which is a real shame because when the production allows itself time to breathe and just dance - rather than move the plot along - it really succeeds.
As someone who has seen previous Rambert productions, I know their stylistic jerking, repetitive movements can be both mesmerising and moving. But Peaky Blinders felt like something different. Despite a love story at its centre, it failed to move me, and the plot-by-numbers left me pining for less clarity.
Thankfully act two, which focused on more abstract notions of grief and despair, via a mist of opium, felt more akin with the Rambert I know and love.
There is no doubt that Rambert have pulled a blinder in terms of drawing in audiences and introducing them to modern dance. They are also making huge strides in diversity with a ethnically mixed ensemble, some gender neutral casting and an astonishing performance from amputee Musa Motha.
But while Peaky Blinfers is likely to draw in the crowds it may alienate some Rambert regulars.
Rambert – Peaky Blinders: The Redemption Of Thomas Shelby runs until February 25. Visit royalandderngate.co.uk to book or for more information.