James Stanley enjoys the sweeping movement of Birmingham Royal Ballet's The Sleeping Beauty at The Lowry, but he longs for more emotion.
26 Sep 2013
With a history longer than Princess Aurora's 100-year slumber party, Tchaikovsky's The Sleeping Beauty can confidently lay claim to being the ultimate classical ballet.
Birmingham Royal Ballet obviously know better than to tamper with an icon, and this traditional production keeps most of the original choreography to turn out an enjoyable and well-paced production.
Taking full advantage of the palatial locale, Philip Prowse's set design is a visual feast of burnished gold, pendulous chandeliers and acres of ormolu. A study in muted brilliance, it frames the court scenes while never threatening to distract from the dancers and neatly transforms into the enchanted forest at the end of Act I. The lavish Ancien Regime costumes add to the effect, recalling the grandeur of the court of Louis XIV.
In the eponymous role, Nao Sukuma finely balances fluid movement with a compass-like precision and delicacy, especially in the notoriously difficult Rose Adagio. She is finely complemented by Chi Cao in the role of Prince Florimund, who has an easy athleticism.
The pair are particularly good in the pas de deux inserted at the end of Act II just after the Prince awakens the Princess. Performed on a bare stage, it allows a tender moment of real emotion that sometimes feels lacking during the rest of the production.
Jenna Roberts, in the mime role of the Lilac Fairy, provides a gentle counterpoint to the energetic action on stage, and the six fairies are allowed to shine in their solos when they bestow their gifts. Praise should also go to Marion Tait as the vengeful Carabosse, who proves the perils of not checking your party invitations.