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Benoit Swan Pouffer on Rambert's new production inspired by Peaky Blinders

Image: Seamus Ryan / Bob King

Next month the daring dance event Peaky Blinders: The Redemption of Thomas Shelby will arrive in the capital for its London premiere at the Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre (12 October – 6 November). Tipped to be a tale of love, lust, hate and woe, Peaky Blinders: The Redemption of Thomas Shelby is set at the end of World War One and follows the doomed love story between the tormented gangster Tommy Shelby and his beau Grace Burgess.

Written by BBC Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight in association with Caryn Mandabach Productions, this original dance show will be brought to life by none other than leading dance company Rambert, with its artistic director Benoit Swan Pouffer choreographing and directing the piece.

Ahead of the London run and forthcoming 2023 UK tour, we chatted to Benoit Swan Pouffer about the production, what it was like collaborating with Stephen Knight and how dance is the best way for the Peaky characters to explore their intense feelings… 


Katie Hagan: Peaky Blinders is a hugely successful TV show that has won awards and drawn in millions of viewers. Do you think this new production will help democratise dance and engage new audiences who haven’t seen contemporary dance or dance theatre before?
Benoit Swan Pouffer: Dance is powerful way of telling stories, and Peaky Blinders is a brilliant story about real working-class people. Not only is it brilliant, but it is loved by fans who have strong expectations and ownership over both the characters and plot. I’m telling you now that they will not be disappointed! I want to exceed their expectations and use a new world of dance to take them even further into this story and these characters.

The way we have created the piece is unique, inclusive and exciting. It’s something that will speak to anyone who wants to feel welcomed to see a daring piece of new theatre for Peaky fans and those who’ve not seen the TV show.


Katie: Steven Knight wrote a ballet sequence in the BBC show’s fifth series which was performed by Rambert dancers. How has this relationship evolved and what has it been like collaborating with Steven Knight on a full production?
Steven is very excited about this production. Since the first conversation he has offered a collaborative hand in sculpting the show. He’s helped craft the narrative and has given me personal insights into the psyche of the characters and why they are the way they are.

Being on set of the TV and part of the action while it was filmed guided me to respect the work of those who created the series, to see the scope of the production from behind the scenes, and now how to move some of that sense of legacy onto the stage.


Benoit Swan Pouffer - Image by Mariano Vivanco

Katie: The characters in the Peaky Blinders BBC show display very strong emotions:  hate, passion, jealousy, love. How is dance the best way to express these feelings?
I believe dance is the best way to express these feelings. Movement isn’t constrained to language, which means it can be understood across cultures and frames of mind. It can express human feelings in a way that we can all understand and feel no matter where we come from. My life in France, New York and London looks nothing like the Shelbys’ 100 years ago in Birmingham – but it doesn’t mean I don’t feel the same things that they feel.

Katie: In this production there’s narration from poet Benjamin Zephaniah and a new track by singer Laura Mvula. Performances will also feature a live onstage band and tracks from the BBC show. What do you think the sound, music and live band will bring to the performances?

Benoit: Music is so central to the BBC’s Peaky Blinders and our show is no exception. Music is a form of expression that meets dance right in the middle. It informs movement right alongside choreography and builds pictures in our minds.

Being able to work with Laura Mvula and Benjamin Zephaniah in this way is so exciting. It’s been wonderful to hear their own creativity and feelings in a way the I can meld into the story. Roman GianArthur, who is known for his collaborations with artists including Janelle Monáe, has written the most incredible score. Having live musicians will just give it that special energy.

Katie: Would you be open to create dance adaptations of other modern TV dramas to foster new audiences?
Benoit: I hope so – let’s see how audiences like Peaky Blinders first!

Image: Seamus Ryan / Bob King

Katie: In an interview with the Evening Standard, you said it was your responsibility to continue Marie Rambert’s idea to: invite choreographers, create new works and challenge the audience. Thinking about Rambert’s legacy and future, what’s next for Rambert?
Benoit: We are always doing something different. It’s unpredictable and I love it. Rambert is about making brilliant and daring work, and by that very description, the future is always exciting, new and challenging even to us. Marie found a home for contemporary dance in the UK and now we want to bring it to the world.

Katie: If you could work with any person throughout history to create a dance work, who would it be and why?
Benoit: I could never choose one! I’m interested in so many different kinds of artists, but some of my biggest inspirations are Grace Jones, Busby Berkeley, Alexander McQueen and Mahalia Jackson.

Peaky Blinders: The Redemption of Thomas Shelby will run at Wembley Park Theatre from October 12th – November 6th 2022. To find out more and book tickets, please head here.

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