And don’t be so sure that a ballet about Black Sabbath is quite as incongruous as it may at first appear, either. For while the sound of War Pigs and Paranoid piping through the PA may at first seem like a sign of a world turned upside-down – as if perhaps, up at Rock City in Nottingham, a crowd is gathering to hear a black metal production of Cosi Fan Tutte – it isn’t only the music-makers eulogised onstage at Britain’s leading theatre of dance who sprang from hardscrabble streets. Carlos Acosta, the director of the world-renowned Birmingham Royal Ballet, the man and the company responsible for this production, began his life in ballet, in Cuba, as the youngest of 11 children despatched to a school dance class by his truck driver father in the hope of finding use for his excess energies. Job done. The family were poor enough that a free meal for each student came in double-handy, too. After a career as a dancer that included 17 years with the English National Ballet, his managerial gig in Birmingham began with the stated aim of staging productions that were relevant to the local community. Again, job done.
Because you don’t get much more Brum than Black Sabbath. Birmingham may well be the country’s Second City, at least in terms of size and geography, but with a roster of musical talent that also includes ELO, The Spencer Davis Group, The Moody Blues, Joan Armatrading, Roy Wood, UB40, not to mention Slade and Judas Priest from nearby satellite towns, this often (shamefully) derided region is in fact the beating heart of modern British culture. Manchester might just compete with it, but London certainly cannot.