Edward II

By Parry, Jann | Dance Magazine, February 1998 | Go to article overview

Edward II


Parry, Jann, Dance Magazine


Birmingham Royal Ballet Birmingham Hippodrome, Birmingham, England October 9-18, 1997 Reviewed by Jann Parry

Shakespeare has provided plenty of inspiration for choreographers--Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Othello, even Hamlet--but the history plays have never seemed ballet material. Nor have plays by Shakespeare's contemporaries, until David Bintley took up the challenge with Edward II, based on Christopher Marlowe's historical tragedy. Bintley's gory two-act work, created for Stuttgart Ballet in 1995, has entered the repertory of the company he now directs in England's Midlands. Wolfgang Stollwitzer and Sabrina Lenzi, the original Edward and his queen, Isabella, have since joined Birmingham Royal Ballet, alternating in the roles with earlier members of the home team. Seen in an English context, Bintley's melodrama resonates with comments on royal rulers, past and present.

Edward II, in real life as in Marlowe's play, was a weak Prince of Wales with a harsh father. Unhappy in an arranged marriage, Edward turns to his boyhood friend, Piers Gaveston, for consolation. Their unwise relationship arouses homophobia in the court and an implacable desire for revenge on the part of Queen Isabella. With the power-crazed Mortimer at her side (and in her bed), Isabella unleashes the forces of war. Bintley makes the ballet into a morality fable, with skeletal Death (as in Kurt Jooss's The Green Table) stalking the land.

He includes characters from a medieval allegorical satire, the Roman de Fauvel; they reappear in different guises, the chief jester becoming Edward's executioner, Lightborn. The king's death (he is impaled on a red-hot Poker) is all the more sadistic because it concludes with a pas de deux for killer and victim that echoes an earlier duet for Edward and Gaveston: love, sex, and death are inseparable. …

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