Returning to The Lowry, its home in the North West, Birmingham Royal Ballet opens its 2013/14 season with the much loved, Sleeping Beauty.
Set to Tchaikovsky’s instantly recognisable score, and first performed in 1890, the show tells the story of one of the most classic fairy-tale ballets of all time. This particular production is by Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Director Laureate Sir Peter Wright, creator of the Company’s much loved production of The Nutcracker.
We begin at the Palace where celebrations are taking place to mark the Christening of Princess Aurora. The grandeur of the Palace is impressive; Philip Prowse, the designer also responsible for the company’s production of Swan Lake, has provided the audience with sumptuous baroque style sets, complemented superbly with over 150 absolutely stunning hand-sewn costumes. Each and every piece is exquisite and incredibly beautiful. The lighting by Mark Jonathan further enhances the opulence and depth of the set.
The ever graceful Lilac Fairy (Jenna Roberts) leads jovial celebrations whilst the Fairy Godmothers present gifts to Princess Aurora, only to be interrupted by a furious Carabosse (Marion Tait) who has been omitted from the celebrations. Roberts and Tait’s contrasting characters are perfectly portrayed and a delight to watch. Roberts is loving, graceful and gentle whilst Tait seethes as the evil Carabosse, nostrils flaring from the minute she sweeps in carried by her equally menacing attendants. We see the wicked Carabosse (Tait) announce her curse that Aurora will one day prick her finger on a spindle and die. Luckily, the Lilac Fairy (Roberts) who is yet to deliver her gift announces that although Aurora will indeed prick her finger she will not die, but instead fall into a deep sleep from which she will be awoken by the kiss of a handsome prince.
The story telling in this production is wonderfully clear, with Marius Petipa and Peter Wright’s impressive choreography, the production moves at a perfect pace; we slip from one section effortlessly to the next. The use of two intervals allows the production to proceed with greater force and is welcomed by the audience who return to their seats after each eager for more.
Nao Sakuma’s portrayal of Princess Aurora is charming, delicate and precise, particularly celebrated in this role, it is clear to see why. Chi Cao, Sakuma’s frequent partner is perfectly suited to the role of Prince Florimund, strong, athletic and mesmerizing, the two dance together beautifully. The famous ‘Garland Dance’ is charmingly delivered and gives the impression that there were far more dancers on stage than there actually were. Special mention must go to Mathias Dingman and Momoko Hirata whose portrayal of ‘The Bluebird and the Enchanted Princess’ was a particular highlight amongst many, many wonderful performances.
Birmingham Royal Ballet succeed once more in making a classic piece accessible, impressive and delightful, if you only ever see on Sleeping Beauty, make sure this is the one.