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The hawthorn is said to be a magic tree. Something set me in mind to sketch out a ballet scenario based, I suppose, very loosely on The Once and Future King. I typed it out and showed it to John (I was quite pleased with it) and said I was minded to post it to David Bintley (who at that time neither of us had met). He agreed -- I did so. Not long afterwards came back a polite reply from David to the effect that he was not able to work to other people's scenarios, and never did so. That seemed to be that.

David, however, had been working with the late Paul Reade at that time, and they'd had great success with the delightful ballet Hobson's Choice, which we'd been to see. I can't at this point remember the exact timing of events -- somehow the threads just seemed to come together. David was, I believe, looking for a composer to work on a very different project from Hobson's Choice. He knew John's music, thought he might be the right composer, and Paul (who sadly was to die, much too young, from a form of cancer) very generously brought them together.

Edward II. From the Hong Kong Arts Festival brochure. Photo: Bill Cooper/BRB

The outcome of this was the very successful full-length ballet, Edward II, based on the Marlowe play, which was commissioned by Stuttgart Ballet, and first performed there in 1995. It caused a tremendous stir, receiving a 15-minute standing ovation. Somehow it fitted in very well with the zeitgeist of the time, both with the 'coming out' of homosexuality, and also the highly publicised troubles of the British monarchy. Stuttgart Ballet gave the work nearly 30 performances, and when David was appointed the Artistic Director of Birmingham Royal Ballet he brought Edward there. Again it was highly successful, and as well as being toured in this country, BRB have also taken it to Hong Kong (the 2000 Festival, where it was the smash hit) and to New York last autumn -- a total of about 60 performances by now.

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Copyright © 17 April 2001 Monica McCabe, Kent, UK







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