Opening Night Verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Reviewed by Michelle Ewen
It’s a tale that needs no introduction – one that has charmed generations (young and old) ever since the seventeenth century.
The simple story of a beautiful princess who is awoken from a sleeping enchantment by the kiss of a handsome prince. Little wonder then that people happily braved the plummeting temperatures to flock to Birmingham Royal Ballet’s five-star performance of The Sleeping Beauty at The Lowry. (Who wouldn’t want to sit inside a giant snow globe with prima ballerina Delia Mathews pirouetting prettily centre stage?)
Fulfilling its bold mission statement to: ‘…inspire and move people worldwide with the best ballet…’ Birmingham Royal Ballet have assembled a formidable company of performers, who are ably supported by a stellar creative team and accompanying orchestra – superbly conducted by Paul Murphy.
Of course, it is Delia Mathews who shines as Princess Aurora, which is considered to be the most technically demanding of all classical ballerina roles. Appointed Principal in 2017, New Zealander Mathews spends virtually the entire performance en pointe – remaining beautifully controlled, while embodying vivacity and coy flirtation with every gesture. Her Disney-handsome Prince is Brandon Lawrence, who says his proudest moment on stage to date was dancing for His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales at Buckingham Palace. (How fitting!) The Bradford-born Soloist was faultless in his footwork; oozing romance and charm, he stole my heart too!
Full credit to Nao Sakuma for making one of the greatest stage entrances I’ve seen: riding high on the backs of her malevolent attendants – and dressed head to toe in black lace and sequins – Carabosse is the embodiment of evil as she curses Princess Aurora on her christening day. Though less technically demanding, her ‘pantomime villainess’ turn is perfect, right through to the final curtain.
While these ‘showy’ roles undoubtedly shine, my greatest personal pleasure was seeing the Soloists each take their own moment in the spotlight during the Prologue and Act III.
Peter Wright’s The Sleeping Beauty is based on the original choreography of Marius Petipa, and it is truly a delight to see each performer take flight – buoyed by Pepita’s steps and Tchaikovsky’s magnificent score.
As Puss-in-Boots and the White Cat, Hamish Scott and Yvette Knight are delightful, while Ruth Brill and Valentin Olovyannikov as Red Riding Hood and the Wolf get fully immersed into character with the aid of their dazzling costumes. (It comes as no surprise to find out that The Sleeping Beauty is the only ballet that requires an articulated lorry just for costumes – including 40 rails and 16 huge wicker skips. From the moment the curtain goes up, the stage is awash with crisp tutus, powdered wigs and swathes of twinkling lace!)
That brings us neatly to Philip Prowse’s design. Sumptuous and decadent, the production feels lavish in the extreme; the set is beautifully lit by Mark Jonathan (recreated by Peter Teigen), whose genius gives us a real ‘wow’ moment when we see the sleeping Aurora spotlighted through the tangled forest.
Birmingham Royal Ballet is to be truly praised for delivering on every level: dream choreography performed by a truly accomplished cast; note-perfect orchestration; and a feast for the eyes through no-holds-barred production and design.
Don’t sleep on it… The Sleeping Beauty is on now at The Lowry until Saturday, 3 March. Tickets are available here.