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Review: Peaky Blinders, The Redemption of Thomas Shelby


By: Su Carroll, TRP Reviewer


Wow. Rambert describe this masterpiece as dance theatre but it is so much more than a sum of all its parts. It feels immersive, powerful, transforming. The opening scenes – which plunge you into the trenches of First World War France – were transfixing. There was a real stillness as the audience collectively held its breath. You could feel the violence, the pain, the trauma, as soldiers emerged from the noise, the blinding light and the mustard gas.

Peaky Blinders hits you right between the eyes and doesn’t let up until the iconic image that brings the drama to a close.

The television source material lasted for six series and quickly became a cult favourite, blending the drama with a hot sound track, juxtaposing contemporary music with a 1920s landscape populated by gangsters, molls, the poor and – at its heart – the Shelby family and patriarch Thomas.

I loved the TV show, and it had a rhythm of its own in the way the actors moved, the choreography of the frequent and bloody violence and the whole look of the dark side of Midlands life between the wars.

This production embraces the Peaky Blinders vibe – the costumes, the attitude, the sounds (there’s an almost Pavlovian response to the bell that chimes in the theme tune by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Red Right Hand). It is so rich in content that the impact is sometimes overwhelming. Take the score. In-your-face songs from the TV soundtrack blend with a stonking narrative driven by the music of Roman Gianarthur. And that’s not all. We have a recorded narration by Benjamin Zephaniah and cult quotes from the show voiced by Cillian Murphy, Helen McCrory, Paul Anderson and Tom Hardy. Whoever alighted on that idea is a genius.

Peaky creator Steven Knight and choreographer and director Benoit Swan Pouffer deliver a story that engages the audience on so many levels. The ensemble company can change the mood at the drop of a hat and the brilliant band (were there really only three of them?) add another dimension to the experience.

This is more than just dance theatre. This is a transforming and absorbing experience.


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