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  • Writer's pictureNeill Kovacic-Clarke


🎭 Black Sabbath: The Ballet

📍 The Lyric, Theatre Royal Plymouth, Royal Parade, Plymouth, Devon, PL1 2TR

🗓 Thursday 12th October 2023


The Iron Man of ballet!

Last night I returned to Theatre Royal Plymouth for something completely different! Black Sabbath: The Ballet is being presented by Birmingham Royal Ballet and Plymouth is privileged to once again to be able to experience this incredible company and is one of only three venues hosting this production. Having seen their production of Swan Lake earlier this year I was excited to get to see this company once again, and also to experience how the opposing forces of heavy metal and ballet would come together.

One thing that is undeniable about Birmingham Royal Ballet is the truly remarkable talent of the dancers. I am always mesmerised by the sheer brilliance of the performers and this was no different last night. Some of the things they achieve is incredible and takes discipline, dedication and hard work. Black Sabbath: The Ballet is broken down into three acts and each one is different in stylisation, costuming and staging.

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Act 1 - Heavy Metal Ballet was choreographed by Raúl Reinoso and began with the dancers emerging through the darkness to the sounds of sirens which was impactful and in some way grew my anticipation for what was to come. Then the instantly recognisable voice of Ozzy Osbourne is almost hypnotically eerie as we hear him singing the beginning of War Pigs. When the music kicks in we see the dancers erupt into the choreography.

As the music transitions we see the arrival of a live guitarist, who has an almost spiritual presence. His interaction with the dancers is remarkable and it is as if they see him as almost a god-like figure. There is then a sublimely serene scene which plays out to a great orchestration of Solitude. This scene sees a couple locked in what is possibly the longest kiss in the history of dance! The two dancers that perform this piece are outstanding. Never losing contact they perform the choreography with absolute precision and are utterly breathtaking. This was possibly my favourite moment of the entire evening. This piece also sees two mysterious figures dressed head to toe in black. I was unsure what their part was in the story but they felt somehow like an echo or memory of the central couple.

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The music then gets louder and steps up a gear as the finale brings possibly the most recognisable song from Black Sabbath to the forefront. Paranoid gave a real party feel to the proceedings and audience members were noticeably bobbing their heads, although managed to resist full on head-banging! The audience reaction was phenomenal as this opening piece concluded.

The design of this piece by Alexandre Arrechea was well thought out and the nods to iconic images from the band’s career would have been an absolute joy to big Black Sabbath fans and they worked well in the very black and white stylisation which was seen throughout the act.

As much as I enjoyed certain parts of this piece, there were other aspects which I took issue with. As phenomenal as the dancers were, unfortunately when dancing as an ensemble there were noticeable timing issues and at times I did find the choreography lacked strength. Also I kept wanting more from the music. This was a recurring issue throughout the night for me. I felt it was lacking depth and the rawness needed for this sort of music. Although most of the orchestrations themselves were phenomenal, with such a large orchestra the music almost seemed overproduced. It was also too quiet. If it had been louder then maybe I wouldn’t have felt that something was missing and it would have definitely have been more impactful.

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Act 2 - The Band, choreographed by Sun Keting, was perhaps the easiest of the three acts to follow. This is probably because throughout the piece we hear voiceovers from band members and Sharon Osbourne which all detail the struggles the band faced - “They all started with nothing”.

The piece begins with the iconic rainfall from Black Sabbath and we instantly get a contrasting feel from act 1 with costuming, staging and lighting all very different. We hear the voice of Tony Iommi as he details the accident which led to him losing the tips of two of his fingers and being told his guitar playing days were over. While we’re listening to this we watch an incredible soloist express the feelings.

The anecdotes we hear throughout this piece are all deeply personal, and at times comical. Ozzy Osbourne tries to describe how his mind works as a female soloist takes to the stage. She gave a sensational performance of some really intense choreography which is to be applauded, but I couldn’t work out who she was meant to represent! Was she Ozzy? Or maybe she was representing Sharon and her support of him. Or perhaps she was portraying his inner demons! This was one point of the performance where it didn’t really matter that I wasn’t quite sure what was happening because I was just lost in the moment.

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This piece did have some great moments woven throughout it, including the use of a live singer which was an unexpected surprise and added a different dimension. I also liked how the central couple from the first piece made an appearance here and there was also a glimpse of the iconic demon through the haze.

Again I enjoyed the design of the piece and the lighting by K.J was especially incredible here. At times though I felt there were too many dancers on the stage and that somehow this was complicating the story. I once again had the same issues with the music as I had during the first act. There were also some parts which I struggled to find the meaning behind such as when the male dancers were essentially dragging the female dancers across the stage. This seemed long-winded and rather unnecessary to me and I just didn’t get it!

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Act 3 - Everybody is a Fan, choreographed by Pontus Lidberg, sees a wonderful stripped back stage with the removal of the wings and is almost a celebration of the legacy of Black Sabbath and a love letter to the fans. I’ll be honest and say that I really struggled with the storytelling here and the meaning of the piece even more than I had previously. Both the orchestrations and the timing of the dancers seemed a lot tighter here than before, even with more dancers on the stage.

The live singing from a dancer who transitioned seamlessly between dancing and singing was absolutely insane and showed great stamina and excellent versatility. I enjoyed the element of live singing here and again was shocked when the entire company started singing. Unfortunately though I felt completely disconnected from the story here and I noticed my mind starting to wander. There were times throughout the evening where I felt the storytelling only made sense if you were a hardcore fan of Black Sabbath which was a bit of a disappointment for me as I was watching as a fan of dance and in particular Birmingham Royal Ballet.

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A particularly enjoyable part of this final piece what when all three acts merged together which actually created an epic finale and we also see the guitarist return to the stage. The iconic demon is more prominent here too and once again the lighting design was perfection for this technical theatre nerd! The finale returned to the very beginning of the night with War Pigs and Paranoid and I finally started to get what I wanted from the music! The audience were clapping along and erupted in well deserved applause at the climax, and the piece received a standing ovation from the full capacity audience.

There’s no denying that the dancers are extremely talented and worked so hard throughout the performance but I did struggle with the storytelling throughout and unfortunately found some of the choreography a bit lacklustre. Moments of Everybody is a Fan felt quite flat to me and repetitive at times.

This year I have seen other dance shows which are based around well known songs and artists and for me Black Sabbath: The Ballet didn’t compare to Message in a Bottle from Zoonation which uses the songs of Sting or What Songs May Do… from Rendezvous Dance which was to the music of Nina Simone.

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I really struggled to land on a star rating for this performance because I love Birmingham Royal Ballet so much and there were some great moments throughout but I had this overwhelming feeling that something was missing and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. I do feel that there was a bit of a missed opportunity with the orchestrations which for me personally lacked the rawness and the edge that it needed. I feel that a star rating of three is fair based on my personal feelings and experience of the piece. Even though this wasn’t really for me I’m still very much looking forward to seeing future productions from this fantastic company.

Black Sabbath: The Ballet continues performances at Theatre Royal Plymouth until Saturday 14th October. The final performance is sold out and availability for the other performances is extremely limited so if you want to see this show then head to and secure your tickets before it’s too late.

Neill Kovacic-Clarke

All views are my own and I pride myself on being honest, fair and free from influence. Theatre is subjective and it is important to remember that all views expressed are just those of one reviewer.

My ticket for this performance of Black Sabbath: The Ballet was gifted by Theatre Royal Plymouth who invited me to watch the show in exchange for my honest review. The fact that my ticket was gifted played no part in the content of my review or the star rating given.

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Act 1 - Heavy Metal Ballet: Enrique Bejarano Vidal; Jack Easton; Ryan Felix; Reina Fuchigami; Kit Holder; Maïlène Katock; Hannah Martin; Beatrice Parma; Gus Payne; Eric Pinto Cata; Matilde Rodrigues; Javier Rojas; Yaoqian Shang; Ellis Small; Lucy Waine; Shuailun Wu

Act 2 - The Band: Gabriel Anderson; Jack Easton; Rosanna Ely; Ryan Felix; Haoliang Feng; Tessa Hogge; Kit Holder; Regan Hutsell; Frieda Kaden; Oscar Kempsey-Fagg; Mason King; Yu Kurihara; Ava May Llewellyn; Lachlan Monaghan (Singer); Matilde Rodrigues

Act 3 - Everybody is a Fan: Tzu-Chao Chou; Mathias Dingman; Yu Kurihara; Momoko Hirata; Riku Ito; Miki Mizutani; Lachlan Monaghan; Haoliang Feng; Ellis Small; Lucy Waine

Featured Guitarist: Marc Hayward

Royal Ballet Sinfonia: Paul Murphy (Conductor); Joana Valentinaviciute (Leader)

RUNNING TIME (approx):

2 hours 15 minutes, including 2 intervals


References to drug use; Occasional bad language (although this is bleeped out it is still implied); Use of dry ice / smoke; Strobe lighting

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The Theatre Royal Plymouth is the principle home of the performing arts in the South West and is the largest and most attended regional producing theatre in the country. Their mission is to develop and deepen people's engagement with pioneering creativity in Plymouth and the South West, delivering experiences that spark delight, expression and fulfilment. The venue offers three performance spaces of various sizes, the largest being The Lyric which accommodates the big touring productions. The Drum and The Lab are smaller, intimate spaces and often offer pioneering productions and I have personally seen some excellent productions in these spaces.


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