Latest Review – The Sleeping Beauty [Birmingham Royal Ballet] [The Lowry, Salford Quays] [UK Tour]

Image © Bill Cooper


Birmingham Royal Ballet

The Lowry, Salford Quays

Until Saturday 3rd March, 2018

First staged by Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet back in 1984 – the predecessor to Birmingham Royal Ballet – Sir Peter Wright’s sumptuous and enchanting production of Tchaikovsky’s iconic The Sleeping Beauty (the second of the composer’s three ballets) has become a true mainstay of its classical repertoire over the years, and makes a welcome return to the UK stage as it approaches its 35th Anniversary year.

Tradition is a value that sits firmly at the heart of most BRB productions and The Sleeping Beauty is a shining example of that. Taking significant inspiration from Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov’s hugely-influential original choreography, Wright’s production exemplifies the grandeur of Nineteenth Century classical ballet at its Imperial best, and is further enhanced by the use of Philip Prowse’s glorious set and costume designs.

Originally conceived by Ivan Vsevolozhsky (Director of the Imperial Theatres in Russia), and adapted from Charles Perrault’s endearing fairy tale, La Belle au bois dormant (The Beauty in the Sleeping Wood), The Sleeping Beauty undoubtedly contains some of Tchaikovsky’s most glorious music, composed with such emotion and delicacy, and beautifully performed by the ever-great Royal Ballet Sinfonia, under the baton of conductor Paul Murphy.

Yet for all its opulence, vast scale and aesthetic qualities, The Sleeping Beauty‘s central narrative feels somewhat lacking in content, and stripping away the creative elements reveals a simple tale of good over evil spread a little too thin. Continuing on that theme, Wright’s choreography is often overly reliant on mime and physical theatre to draw out the tale, opening with a prologue that feels heavy on presentation yet light on real dance content.

Building on the high standards the company continues to set itself, performances are unsurprisingly very strong for the most part, though slippery floor conditions do instil understandable reservations in some performances, with a few not fully committing to movements (seemingly for safety reasons).

Delia Matthews is on radiant form as Princess Aurora, a role considered to be the most technically demanding of all classical ballerina roles, and she is joined by a sturdy and muscular Brandon Lawrence who brings both sensitivity and charisma to Prince Florimund. Danced with great delicacy and precision, their Act III grand Pas de Deux – complete with three very well executed fish dives- meets with jubilant applause from a very responsive audience.

An underused Nao Sakuma makes a memorable entrance and does fine work as the evil fairy Carabosse, though as the main villain of the piece – a character that would later evolve into the great Maleficent in the Disney classic – her ultimate demise seems rushed and underwhelming. There is nice work too from Jenna Roberts as The Lilac Fairy, Yasuo Atsuji and Celine Gittens as the Bluebird and the Enchanted Princess, Jonathan Payn as a humorous Catalabutte, and the varied compliment of Fairies, Cavaliers and Nymphs.

Composed towards the end of the Nineteenth Century, and as a sort of early gateway into the neo-classical ballet of the early Twentieth Century, there is no denying The Sleeping Beauty‘s artistic quality and influence on the generations of choreographers, composers and audiences that followed. Staying to try to its roots, Sir Peter Wright’s production is said to be as true to the original as it is possible to be, and for that it can only be admired.

Running Time: Prologue – 34 minutes | Interval [15 minutes] | Act I – 29 minutes | Pause [3 minutes] | Act II – 32 minutes | Interval [15 minutes] | Act III – 40 minutes [Total: 2 hours and 48 minutes, approx.]

Final Performance at the The Lowry, Salford Quays: Saturday 3rd March, 2018

For more information, and to book tickets, please Click Here.

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