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How dancers have become gangsters to bring Peaky Blinders to the stage

"Even if you've never seen Peaky Blinders before, you will get this show and you will understand the lasting appeal it has."

Creator Steven Knight with the dancers in the new Peaky Blinders show, which runs at Birmingham Hippodrome in September
Creator Steven Knight with the dancers in the new Peaky Blinders show, which runs at Birmingham Hippodrome in September

The creator of the period crime drama says the new dance production inspired by the show will bring it to a new audience – as he spoke of his own excitement at seeing how it looks on stage.

Steven Knight was speaking at the launch of "Rambert Dance in Peaky Blinders: The Redemption of Thomas Shelby" – a collaboration between dance company Rambert and Birmingham Hippodrome which sees the characters of the show brought to life in dance.

The show will open with a six-day run at Birmingham Hippodrome, starting on Tuesday, September 27, before embarking on a national tour in 2023.

He said it had seemed like a natural progression to take the show from the small screen to the stage and explained how it came about.

He said: "It felt like a natural progression, even though it is a leap, but that's a good thing because it's good to do different stuff and try new things.

"Rambert has been taking dance to people who didn't know they liked dance since the 1930s and they did a 12-minute dance piece for the Peaky Blinders festival which I thought was just fantastic.

"I wrote a ballet sequence in series five which Rambert performed and that cemented the relationship and made me feel that this could be a show, so I've written a story and the way they've transformed it into dance is just amazing."

Knight said the choreography by the artistic director Benoit Swan Pouffer made the difference to the piece, saying that you wouldn't need notes to know what was going on, and said it reflected the current mainstream appeal of dance.

He said: "I'm the further thing from being a dance expert, but the idea now that dance is not mainstream is old fashioned, because programmes like Strictly get millions of viewers.

"What I've written gets an emotional reaction and I think what we're inviting people to do is for people to come here and enjoy dance and the music, which is just as important as we have always had a great collaboration with recording artists.

"It's great though and I'm really excited as I have seen the performance and I know the performance will work well with audiences, and I think it's a great way to showcase Birmingham and tell the world this is our year.

Benoit and Steven pose as the dancers go through their routines

"I would say it's very unlikely that Cillian Murphy will make an appearance as I don't know how good a dancer he is," he laughed. "But I'm sure he'll probably come to watch the show at some point," he said.

Knight's vision has been brought to life by Rambert, with artistic director Benoit Swan Pouffer saying there was a level of complexity and emotion about the show which lent itself to dance.

He said: "I think with Peaky Blinders, if you've seen it or heard of it, you understand that these characters are very complex and they have a lot of layers and emotions, such as hatred, love and compassion.

"I believe the tool of dance is the best way to express those feelings and, having done the Peaky Blinders festival, I have come to realise this city is strong and focussed and it made perfect sense to me how the Peaky Blinders existed in this city.

Steven Knight said the dance show felt like a natural progression for Peaky Blinders

"This is the first time I've taken on a TV show as a dance and it's a new way of reaching out to an audience as there are people who will never buy tickets to see a dance show, but they will fall in love with the incredible artists and the setting."

The artistic director said people should get their tickets now as they would be selling like hot cakes, a sentiment echoed by the director of artistic programme at Birmingham Hippodrome, Chris Sudworth.

He said it has been an 18-month period to get things together and spoke of how he was feeling ahead of the opening in September.

Benoit Swan Pouffer said the complexity of the characters and city lent it well to dance

He said: "I am incredibly excited about seeing this happen as it has been such a tough couple of years for the whole of society and, particularly in theatres, we have felt it acutely.

"Our audiences have been incredibly supportive throughout this whole period and we're looking forward to putting on something special for them in what is a huge year for the city as a whole.

"We're still working on all the basics of what will happen on the first night, but we're hoping to have a spectacular night and keep it running throughout the performances here."

To find out more about the show and to book tickets, go to peakyblindersdance.com.

Press preview impresses all

The new show, which opens at the Hippodrome in September, was officially launched by Steven Knight, Rambert’s artistic director Benoit Swan Pouffer, Rambert chief executive Helen Shute and Birmingham Hippodrome director of artistic programme Chris Sudworth on Monday.

As a taster of what can be expected from the show, dancers from Rambert put on a brief preview performance for the Press.

Wearing full period costume, including peaked caps, and oozing with menace and feeling, the three-minute dance brought the feeling of Birmingham in 1919 to the Hippodrome dance studio.

Performed to "Red Right Hand" by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, a song fitting the mood of the era, the dancers moved slowly towards the front, stepping in time, giving the impression that they were not to be messed with.

Brilliantly choreographed, the performance showcased the essential qualities of the show, from the steely glares of the men to the cold glamour by the women, and gave you an idea of how it would look on the big stage.

Finishing with a look and a walk-off, the dancers returned to take the applause of those in attendance, before doing a repeat performance to allow for more shots and angles of the dance.

It may have only been a three-minute preview, but it sets the scene for what people can expect at Birmingham Hippodrome on September 27.

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