It is rare indeed to have an audience gasping in awe from the moment the curtains rise, but guess what? That’s exactly what the Birmingham Royal Ballet’s production of The Sleeping Beauty did. Watching the performance was a truly transcendent experience. The set design was positively regal, with deep, rich tones of: gold, brown, orange and hints of blue. You were immediately transported into a palace of wealth and grandeur. That same elegance was also reflected in the costumes. There was such an exquisite delicacy to them; from the tutus of Princess Aurora (Delia Mathews), to the full length gown of Carabosse (Nao Sakuma), the evil fairy that curses the baby Aurora.
That gown alone weighs almost two stone! No wonder she was evil. The story of Sleeping Beauty is timeless, so it makes sense that you may be sat there thinking: “why would I pay money to see a story I already know?” First of all, it is a classic for a jolly good reason- it’s stunning.
Whilst the tale is familiar, even more so thanks to Disney, you don’t feel each note of the glistening harp, the thunderous percussion, or the elation and despair of the characters- until you see it told through dance, with the Royal Ballet Sinfonia. You could watch it on TV or a screening at the cinema, but, you are not likely to feel the spine- tingling chills, as Carabosse commands her curse, and the skip of a heartbeat at the glimmer of hope the Lilac Fairy (Jenna Roberts) brings, when she lures Prince Florimund (Brandon Lawrence) to the hidden castle, where a sleeping Aurora awaits a kiss. The light and shade of these two characters is vividly put across, despite neither being a technical dancing role; their central mode of communication is through the movement of mime. Yet, their opposing jealous wrath and optimistic charm are so lucidly executed, which shows the dedication to characterisation these ballerinas have.
Pyotr Llyich Tchaikovsky’s score is highly family friendly too. It is playful, powerful, expressive and frightening, in just the right parts. It’s exciting enough to engage young children new to ballet and the more mature audience, who love a time-honoured production.
Even though it was split into a prologue and three acts, each of which were over half an hour long, it did not feel as though you were sat there forever; it moved so fluidly and quickly, it almost came as a surprise when it was time for the intervals. The only shocking aspect of this performance was the fact it did not receive a standing ovation. Barring a minor stumble from a ballerina, which would have been missed had you blinked at the wrong moment, it was incredibly precise and beautiful to watch. Especially Aurora’s ‘Rose Adagio’, which showed such strength, balance and composure, but also a light daintiness too.
It’s at the Lowry until the 3 rd March and you’d be foolish to give it a miss. It genuinely is one to watch.