Birmingham Royal Ballet completed its spring tour of The Sleeping Beauty last week with a short visit to the London Coliseum. The version it dances is by Sir Peter Wright, the company’s one-time director and renowned producer of classical ballets. His Giselle and Beauty are some of the best around, with both BRB and The Royal Ballet dancing his Giselle and BRB lucky enough to have his Beauty all to itself.
And Sir Peter’s production of The Sleeping Beauty really is glorious. The wonderful sets and costumes by Philip Prose are a great starting point, with Louis XIV inspired designs that manage to be both restrained and sumptuous at the same time. The sets and costumes are all the more remarkable for being the sort that are packed up and taken on tour – they get more wear and tear that way, and have to be more flexible than ones that stay in one theatre.
Sir Peter can’t, of course, take credit for Tchaikovsky’s music or Petipa’s choreography which were created for the original ballet back in 1890. However, the emphasis and pace and the coaching of the dancers are all his decisions, and his judgement is second to none.
In Sir Peter’s production, the story is clear and meaningful. This is not easy when you remember how much we take the fairytale for granted. Yet when the Lilac Fairy (Andrea Tredinnick on opening night) gently shakes her head, it’s clear that the wicked fairy’s curse will be broken even if it takes 100 years.
These gestures and mimed sequences are well done, although the dancing is nothing to complain about. The opening night Princess Aurora (Nao Sakuma) and Prince (Iain Mackay) were neatly danced, with Sakuma especially good as the guileless Princess full of youth and happiness. As her parents, Jonathan Payn and Victoria Marr were restrained and kindly, while David Morse as the Master of Ceremonies was a dignified courtier rather than a pompous fuss-pot, as the character is often danced.
In the Act III wedding party, the fairytale characters were lightness and joy. Top marks to the Bluebird and the Enchanted Princess (Joseph Caley and Momoko Hirata) and to the White Cat (Sonia Aguilar). During her duet with Puss-in-Boots, she danced with feline flirtatiousness, with BRB's orchestra charmingly revealing the cat meows in the music.