United Kingdom Tchaikovsky, The Sleeping Beauty: Dominic Grier (Conductor), Edinburgh Festival Theatre, 11.1.2012 (SRT)
Aurora – Claire Robertson
The Prince – Erik Cavallari
Lilac Fairy – Noellie Conjeaud
Carabosse – Kara McLaughlin
Orchestra of Scottish Ballet
Ashley Page (choreography)
Watching Scottish Ballet’s Sleeping Beauty reminded me of what a class act this company is. Having survived a period of rather poor health around the millennium, the company has stormed back under the leadership of Ashley Page and the quality of what they present on stage is outstanding, evidenced in their 2011 Edinburgh International Festival show. It is Page who, in 2007 choreographed Sleeping Beauty. This is its third outing and it’s still hugely appealing. Page’s approach is literal in places and exploratory in others: the Prologue of Aurora’s christening takes place in Russia in 1830 and so the birthday party and pricking of the finger take place in 1846. Falling asleep for 100 years, however, means that the wedding celebrations take place in 1946 when the royal family have lost all their wealth as a result of two world wars and end up celebrating their daughter’s nuptials in a flashy London hotel.
Visually speaking the production is a triumph, thanks mainly to Antony McDonald’s designs and Michelle May’s sumptuous costumes. The christening party is almost Chekovian in its naturalism, a plush Russian garden with aristocratic inhabitants contrasting with the elfin figures of the fairies who have come to present their gifts. Aurora falls asleep in a hothouse, which then decays during her century of sleep, and the contrast of the gaudy primary colours of the London hotel serves to underline the change in the family’s fortunes.
Page’s choreography is unfussy, but I couldn’t shake a feeling that his gift is more for individuals than crowds. The character dances at the wedding were thrilling in their virtuosity, as were the Prince’s duets with Aurora, but the Waltz and Polonaise for the party guests didn’t hold my attention as well. Only in the Rose Adagio was there a slightly jarring disjunct between the magisterial music pouring from the pit and the slightly underwhelming dance for Aurora and her suitors on stage. All concerns were lost in the magical second act, though, set in the depths of the forest where the Lilac Fairy reveals the location of the princess to the young prince against a beautifully suggestive backdrop of sylvan enchantment. The restrained elegance of the good fairies contrasted gorgeously with the jarring malevolence of Carabosse and her daughters, and the act culminated in a glorious first duet for Aurora and the prince. This was the most magical thing I’ve seen on a ballet stage in a long time.
The Sleeping Beauty is at the Edinburgh Festival Theatre until Saturday 14 January. It then tours to Aberdeen, Inverness and Newcastle. For full details go to www.scottishballet.co.uk