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Birmingham Royal Ballet - Sleeping Beauty and Penguin Cafe (Plymouth - tour)

Birmingham Royal Ballet ends its autumn tour in Plymouth with standing ovations and full houses at the Theatre Royal

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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The Sleeping Beauty

Birmingham Royal Ballet ends its autumn tour in Plymouth with standing ovations and full houses.

The main attraction is Peter Wright's 2010 revival of classical favourite Sleeping Beauty with sumptuous design by Philip Prowse and wow, what costuming.

Nao Sakuma is a delicately delightful Princess Aurora, whose solos are exquisite while the pas de deux with her Prince, the high-leaping Chi Cao, are charming.

Assistant director Marion Tate postures beautifully as baddie Fairy Carabosse with her pirate posse counterpointing the rather wafty role of Lilac Fairy danced by Yijing Zhang supported by myriad ethereal attendants.

Michael O'Hare also turns out as MC at the opulent court where the stage teems with talent as royalty, courtiers, attendants and guests dance their appreciation at the Christening and later birthday party for the eponymous princess.

In a ballet where the set piece showcase dances mount up, BRB manages to keep the attention with Jonathan Caguioa and Emily Smith a notable delight – particularly among the many flagging youngsters in the audience – as Puss-in-Boots and the White Cat. And mention must be made of the ever-present corps de ballet whose symmetry and timing is superb.

It just could have done with less miming.

The Bintley triple bill starts off with E=mc2, a powerful (no pun intended), energetic (ditto) four-movement study of Einstein's equation.

Energy is depicted with athletic fury, with a large corps de ballet leaping frenetically repeating speed-skating and throwing movements as the theme develops.

The slower, more ponderous Mass sees three trios dividing and uniting before the interlude of Manhatten Project in which Samara Downs's solo to a blaring score reminds one acutely of atomic explosion in Japan – the devastating outcome of the brilliant revolutionary findings.

Finally, the large corps de ballet returns in frantic pairs and quartets with Celeritas2 (speed of light) translating Matthew Hindson's score into fast and furious movement.

Next up is Tombeaux, a dark Ashton-esque memorial to all Bintley felt was, in 1993, being eroded from British ballet. A beautiful design by Jasper Conran and score by William Walton combine with tensely technical double tours, petite batterie and repeatedly reworked "Fred-step".

The triple bill ends with the perennial fun favourite ‘Still Life' at the Penguin Café, another Bintley nostalgia piece warning of endangered species and environmental damage to a tailor-made score by Simon Jeffes.

In a series of vignettes, penguins Charleston, there's a perky hoe-down from James Barton as a Texan Kangaroo Rat, Latin pzzazz from Angela Paul's ram, and African swagger from Tyrone Singleton's strutting zebra.

But of particular delight is the buzzy, bouncy flea embodied by the tiny, energetic Laura Day, and the haunting displaced rainforest couple Samara Downs and Tom Rogers with their child – a tremendous performance from young Arabella Yardley.

- Karen Bussell