Far from the Madding Crowd in rehearsal

Far from the Madding Crowd in rehearsal in 1996; Leticia Müller and Kevin O’Hare; photo: Bill Cooper

Birmingham Royal Ballet dances David Bintley’s Far from the Madding Crowd this month – the first time that the ballet has been seen in almost exactly a decade. The choreographer, fresh from watching archive recordings of the opening night in 1996 and its last performance in 2002, admits to being, ‘pleasantly surprised.’

‘It is quite odd turning my mind towards Crowd‘, he says. ‘I hadn’t seen it for nine years and I had to steel myself! It’s always un-nerving watching something after so long. There are parts you had forgotten; it’s almost like seeing someone else’s work.’ David made his big adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s novel about love, deceit, madness and murder in his first year as Artistic Director of Birmingham Royal Ballet.

Far from the Madding Crowd in rehearsal in 1996

Far from the Madding Crowd in rehearsal in 1996; Leticia Müller and Kevin O’Hare; photo: Bill Cooper

‘Crowd had a few teething problems and I’m really looking forward to working with a couple of new casts that will move the ballet on. I have wanted to get it back on for five or six years; it has been out of the repertory for no reason other than we have been very busy with other things.

‘I made changes between the original in 1996 and the last time we did it in 2002, but choreographically there are still some moments I’m not quite happy with. There are also some parts of the music the composer Paul Reade and I wanted to work on but sadly he died very shortly after Crowd went on and we weren’t able to do that. So, I will be revisiting. It’s too early to say which composer will be assisting with that but there won’t be any drastic changes.’

Reading the book is not a prerequisite, laughs David. ‘When I make a ballet from a literary source it can have quite a different emphasis and reading the book may not add much. I usually just put the scenario up on the board so the dancers know the general outline. Besides, Far from the Madding Crowd is quite difficult to get into, unlike Hardy’s other novels, the Mayor of Casterbridge or Jude. It’s a tough read… it took me two goes, many years ago!’

Here you can see archive footage of David being interviewed about the piece prior to its premiere in 1996:

Birmingham Royal Ballet dance Far from the Madding Crowd 20-23 June 2012 at Birmingham Hippodrome. Click here for booking details.

This interview originally appeared as a longer article by Susan Turner in Entrechat, the magazine of BRB Friends. Click here to find out more.