Birmingham Royal Ballet paranoid over Black Sabbath

Published: 8 February 2023
Reporter: Steve Orme

Black Sabbath the Ballet Credit: Perou
Carlos Acosta and Tony Iommi on Black Sabbath Bridge in Birmingham Credit: Drew Tommons

Birmingham rock heavyweights Black Sabbath are to become ballet stars in the Birmingham Royal Ballet world première of Black Sabbath—The Ballet.

The idea of a Black Sabbath ballet has been on BRB director Carlos Acosta’s mind since he first arrived in the city at the start of 2020, just before the pandemic.

Black Sabbath played their first gig in The Crown pub only a stone’s throw from Birmingham Royal Ballet’s base on Thorp Street. The pub has been saved from demolition and fans deem it a heritage site.

Acosta said, “Black Sabbath is probably Birmingham’s biggest export, the most famous (and infamous) cultural entity ever to emerge from the city. So I was naturally drawn to the idea of a collaboration between what most people might think are the most unlikely partners.

“The band’s enthusiasm for the project is a huge endorsement. They’re putting their trust in us to deliver something completely new and original, and that’s quite a responsibility but one that we’re beyond excited to take on.

“Everyone in the BRB company is thrilled to be involved and we can’t wait to share the vision for the show in more detail in the coming months. I’ve hand-picked the creative team and will work closely with them to make a spectacular show.”

Black Sabbath co-founder, lead guitarist, co-songwriter and Birmingham resident Tony Iommi said, “I’m looking forward to seeing how this all develops! Black Sabbath have always been innovators and never been predictable, and it doesn’t come any more unpredictable than this!

“I’d never imagined pairing Black Sabbath with ballet but it’s got a nice ring to it. I’ve met Carlos several times and his enthusiasm is infectious. I performed alongside some of the dancers at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony and they had an incredible energy, so I’m happy to go along for the ride with them.”

A full-length, three-act, Ballet Now commission, Black Sabbath—The Ballet brings together international creatives including lead Swedish choreographer Pontus Lidburg, Cuban designer Alexandra Arrechea, composer Christopher Austin, additional choreographers Raúl Reinoso and Cassi Abranches and composers Marko Nyberg and Sun Keting. Richard Thomas is dramaturg and lighting design is by Kieron Johnson.

Eight Black Sabbath tracks will feature in the ballet including “Paranoid” and “War Pigs”. The music will be re-orchestrated for the Royal Ballet Sinfonia, with new compositions inspired by Black Sabbath also performed live by the orchestra. On-stage guitars and drums will be integrated into the performance.

Black Sabbath—The Ballet will run at Birmingham Hippodrome from 23 until 30 September. Further dates at Theatre Royal Plymouth and Sadler’s Wells London are to be announced.