Review, The Sleeping Beauty, Birmingham Royal Ballet, Sadlers Wells, By Hannah Goslin

 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

I am ashamed to admit that my knowledge and version of Sleeping Beauty is entirely from Disney. I’m used to the owl dancing in a coat, an impossible leaning cake (which I want for every birthday, even at 31 turning 32) and the big dragon. So when I came to this production, the storyline following, at times, a different path, it was like a new story for me.

These differences are subtle. But to summarise the story of The Sleeping Beauty in this production: a girl (Aurora) is cursed by an evil fairy, after she isn’t invited to her christening. When she pricks her finger on a spindle, she would fall into a 100 year sleep. And so up until her 16th birthday, all sharp objects are eliminated from the palace. The evil fairy manages to sneak a spindle in and Aurora falls to her fate. Only true loves kiss releases her, where she awakes to a beautiful marriage and guests of fairy-tale royalty.

In this day and age, we are so used to modernisation of tales, of a reinvention of tradition, and often this is refreshing and allows the story to be told in a new way. However, Birmingham Royal Ballet went against this grain and kept it very traditional. And this, in itself, was absolutely refreshing. The opulence of the stage, the set, the costumes was exquisite and gave me a goosebump-ed feeling of the days of old, where audiences dressed up to attend and were part of the elite. The beauty of this, is that, at a very affordable price, anyone could come to this production and get that exact feeling. They get to come and feel special, and that was evident in the eyes of many young children in attendance.

The stage had so many layers to it and rose so high, that we felt as if we were really in a grand European castle or palace, with all the pomp and circumstance, the historical costumes along with the beautiful and decadent tutus, allowing us to not only be transported in time but in place.

Accompanied by a live orchestra, the tradition continued with the accompaniment, but also felt extremely special. There’s something about live orchestral music that makes you shiver with awe and excitement, and the atmosphere it helped to create were effective with the change of the mood of the scene.

The dancing of course was spectacular. Not a foot was wrong and tradition continued to seep through in each member, whether a principal or in the background. The only qualm is that some more technically advanced moves that required balance did not always translate to the dancers face and so the panic and concern of this became evident and made that moment lose its magic somewhat.

The end of the story, we are treated to new characters who attend the wedding. Puss in Boots, The White Cat and Little Red Riding Hood are introduced, providing some giggles and some change of pace. It’s only at the end in the final bow that a few more appear in the guise of a Sultan and another furry creature. This was a little confusing and likely to do with some tradition in the ballet. However, it felt a little out of place and distracted somewhat from the celebration of the cast.

Overall, seeing traditional ballet and in the form of a story I thought I knew, but evidently did not, was magical and special. We were transported in time, in place and into a fairy tale world.

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