Birmingham Royal Ballet’s The Sleeping Beauty, Mayflower Theatre, UK Tour

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Review by Soraya Scrivener

Sleeping Beauty follows the well-loved fairytale of good triumphing over evil, Princess Aurora is cursed by the evil fairy Carabosse then saved by the good Lilac Fairy and a Prince. Sir Peter Wright’s luxurious production adds to the original choreography by Marius Petipa.

Review

I had goose bumps from the beginning of the overture. The Royal Ballet Sinfonia, conducted by Koen Kessels and lead by Robert Gibbs wow us with Tchaikovsky’s spectacular score throughout.

The Prologue begins the story at Aurora’s Christening. Designs by Philip Prowse are truly sumptuous. Lit beautifully, the colours of the set and costumes blended so well that I felt like I was looking at a living Baroque painting. The costumes are impressively detailed though the trains/cloaks posed quite a challenge to manoeuvre even on this big stage. My favourites by far were Carabosse’s black gown contrasting with the Lilac Fairy’s. Both exquisite. I was saddened that not all the Fairies solos had sparkle and artistic depth. Nao Sakuma as Carabosse commanded the stage and it is no surprise to read that she has been a Principal since 2002. Jenna Roberts equally shone as the Lilac Fairy. It is a shame her role is limited to mime with her solo given away in this version, but the mirroring of good and evil works well from beginning to end.

Photo Credit Bill Cooper

In Act 1 we are introduced to Aurora at her 16th Birthday. Principal Momoko Hirata, on opening night had the iconic, technically demanding role as the Princess and danced with ethereal arms and a captivating character. Her 2nd solo was particularly heavenly. Once under the spell it was rather odd that a Princess would be propped on the floor with plain pillows. I adored the end of this act as the forest layers each descended magnificently to the music.

It was clear on the cast list sheet that there would be a short pause after Act 1. However, despite the house lights remaining down, some audience members decided to vacate their seats and then return part way into Act 2 which was rather distracting. If theatre-goers do not buy programmes, is there a need for an announcement before the performance to ensure everyone is informed? I do urge you to buy the comprehensive programme which is an absolute joy to read.

Photo Credit Bill Cooper

In Act 2 Principal Mathias Dingman danced Prince Florimund. He impressed in his solo as did Hirata but also in his heartfelt mime. Once awoken by the kiss, Dingman and Hirata showcased their beautiful partnership, though Aurora seemed to remain 16.

The Wedding celebrations in Act 3 are a great excuse to exhibit pure classical technical ability from the company. A highlight for me was the pas de quatre, danced by Arancha Baselga, Karla Doorbar, Max Maslen and James Barton. The latter’s experience radiates in his performance from having just returned from performing in An American in Paris. Yaoqian Shang dazzled as the Enchanted Princess. Red Riding Hood’s hood was not red which irked me and having a period wig like the rest of the company made her look more like the Grandma. Hirata and Dingman continued to excite in their solos and pas de deux with some fabulous spins. The finale was enjoyable and the final tableau wonderful though masked by the volume of gold glitter falling from above. A bit too glitzy in colour and out-of-place in this period piece.

Photo Credit Bill Cooper

You will certainly not be sleeping through this beauty of a production. Perhaps this accomplished company were focussed on their new space during their opening night which prevented some from dancing from their heart and soul.

A surprising number of seats still available at The Mayflower Theatre until Saturday. The tour continues to Birmingham, Salford, Cardiff and Plymouth. They also have an hour-long version suitable for children aged 3+. One Friday matinée of ‘First Steps: Sleeping Beauty’ will be performed at each venue.

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