Peaky Blinders, the story of Tommy Shelby and his rise to prominence after the end of the First World War became one of the most eagerly-anticipated TV series of recent years. Now, Peaky Blinders: The Redemption of Thomas Shelby is heading to The Lowry, performed by the world famous Rambert dance company. Here, the show’s creator Steven Knight talks about bringing the cult production to the stage

How did you become connected with Rambert?

It was a gradual process because someone at the BBC suggested that we meet when we talked about doing a 12 minute dance piece as part of a Peaky Blinders festival. Rambert were brought on, and it was brilliant.

I was writing Series 5 of Peaky Blinders at the time and so I wrote a scene where Tommy Shelby invites Rambert to his house, because in the 1930s Rambert used to tour the country and do shows under the ethos of bringing dance to the people. In Peaky Blinders, the music, the way people move and the way they dress is really important so I think it really lends itself to dance.

The Bolton News: Writer Steven Knight and director and choreographer Benoit Swan Pouffer

Rambert’s Artistic Director Benoit Swan Pouffer and I noted that we could create a full show together. I was shocked when the company asked me to write it, but I imagined the set and the stage and wrote what I thought would be good for that.

Benoit and I started working together and it began to snowball. We brought in some great collaborators and got really good music for it. I saw the show in rehearsals and couldn’t believe how great it was. I first saw it performed to an audience in Birmingham and it raised the roof with standing ovations, and now it’s going all over the place.

How does the work of Rambert make you feel?

I didn’t realise how direct the relationship between dance and the audience is. I work with dialogue and plot within scenes where people act the roles, whereas in dance it feels more subtle in the execution but more direct in the effect. An interaction between two people can be very stylised but you get to see that very quickly, and the music continues to amplify that.

How did you meet both inspirations and visions during the collaboration process of making the work?

I wrote the script as though it was a long script without dialogue, with slight inclusion of narration.

I started off with WW1 and soldiers coming out of a tunnel, and imagined how they would look and move, whilst thinking about how that would make them feel too.

The way I tend to write is quite instinctively so I write whatever comes into my head at the time so I just wrote it whilst imagining it through dance and music. I wrote it almost like a dream rather than a script.

The Bolton News: Peaky Blinders - The Redemption of Thomas Shelby (Picture: Johan Persson)

How did it feel trusting another creative with the keys to Peaky Blinders?

When there’s somebody as good a Benoit, it’s a relief. It’s like giving the script to a good director as you know they are going to take what you’ve done and enhance it.

I’m a firm believer in doing things that you haven’t done before otherwise it’s boring, so the idea of telling people that Peaky Blinders will be presented through dance is great.

Do you think you learnt anything from Benoit or Rambert, and the art of storytelling?

Yes. I think it teaches you that sometimes words cause a jam. Instead you can present something quite quickly in dance, and it teaches you the power of a look.

The thing about dance is that all of us are experts in it because we all live our lives in a dance. For example, if someone walks into a room - you can tell if they are in a good or bad mood because of their body language.

How did you come to decide that there would be a live band on stage?

The music is central to the TV series and music is the stepping stone between the TV series and the dance piece too.

Roman GianArthur who did the score absolutely got what Peaky Blinders was about. It isn’t exactly a particular style of music as it can be folk or heavy metal, but it does need to have a certain swagger or a certain attitude to it.

In the words of Cillian Murphy: ‘there is music that is Peaky, and there is music that isn’t Peaky. You can’t always define it but you can tell when you hear it.

The Bolton News: Peaky Blinders - The Redemption of Thomas Shelby (Picture: Johan Persson)

Is it exciting to be bringing in a new audience with this work?

It really is, and it is one of the reasons why we decided to do it.

I’m proud that Peaky Blinders isn’t highbrow or it isn’t of a particular class - it’s a cross section of people from different backgrounds, and so it does appeal to different people too.

People may not always walk through a door marked ‘dance’ but they may walk through a door marked ‘Peaky Blinders’, and so it’s the idea that you can connect with new audiences by welcoming them through that setting.

Saying that, the BBC’s most popular TV show across all demographics is Strictly Come Dancing so audiences love watching people dance. It isn’t like it’s restricted to certain people of a level of education or income, as people have been dancing for 10,000+ years.

Do you think Peaky Blinders: The Redemption of Thomas Shelby is an accessible show?

Absolutely. It’s very accessible. The story is clear and we aren’t planning on baffling people. We are being as clear as we can about what’s going on and that, in itself, is quite mysterious.

It ties into what Rambert’s original remit was in the 20s and 30s of taking dance to working class people who love dance. That doesn’t come with a clause of being patronising but I think this show does that in the true spirit of Rambert.

For me, you’re getting to see what human beings can do; the way the dancers move and the way they interact, as they throw themselves into it. I think it’s incredible that you can see human bodies pushing themselves to the limit to tell a story - it’s brilliant.

Peaky Blinders: The Redemption of Thomas Shelby is at The Lowry, Salford Quays from Tuesday, March 14 to Saturday, March 18. Age recommendation 15. Details from