Birmingham Royal Ballet’s production of The Sleeping Beauty is currently gracing the stage of the Mayflower Theatre in Southampton; a classic tale known to most combining the elegance of ballet with Tchaikovsky’s renowned music, played by the acclaimed Royal Ballet Sinfonia.
Captivating audiences for centuries the story of The Sleeping Beauty is known worldwide; an evil fairy curses Princess Aurora to prick her finger with a spindle on her 16th birthday and die. The Lilac Fairy, still having a gift to bestow, makes it so the princess will not die but fall into a deep sleep, only a kiss from a prince can break the curse and wake her from this slumber.
I must confess to you that this is the first ballet I have been to, I entered the theatre in anticipation, unsure of what to expect and curious of how it would resonate with me, wondering if ballet was something I would be able to understand and enjoy!
So although lacking in technical knowledge, I hope that sharing my thoughts and feelings about this production might inspire someone else to open themselves up to trying a new experience, because witnessing this production was worth the leap into the unknown! I was truly enchanted, swept up into this magical fairytale world, mesmerised by the beauty and elegance of the movement of the dancers on stage. I found myself in awe of the talent and dedication they all clearly have to their craft.
As the curtain lifts you are transported back in time and invited into a palace scene with the magnificent set design, oozing with grandeur and affluence. The costumes were simply stunning, captivating the opulence and elegance of the royal court. Every element of this production has been carefully considered and crafted really drawing you into the fairytale world. There was a wonderful moment within the show where atmospheric smoke was added to the stage and the way The Lilac Fairy drifted around the stage with her dress leaving a path in her wake created a surreal dream like effect.
I feel like I could talk for hours about the individual talent within the cast, it was captivating how they give so many of the dancers their moment in the spotlight to showcase their skill. The grace in which they execute the dance steps is something that amazed me, and the speed in which their feet would move just left me simply stunned, I was left wishing I could transport back in time and beg my parents to enrol me in ballet lessons, if it meant I could have even a fraction of their grace!
PICTURED ABOVE: Group scene Momoko Hirata | Credit Bill Cooper and Dasa Wharton
My highest praise must go to Yu Kurihara who plays Princess Aurora, the ease in which she glides around stage is something I have never witnessed before. I found myself shaking my head in moments of pure amazement as I tried to fathom how she could possibly hold some of the positions, the strength she showed and the way she held herself clearly shows a deep dedication to ballet. I found her to be spellbinding, which I believe was a sentiment shared by the audiences as there were moments when the applause was literally bursting out around me, people hardly able to contain it to the end of the sequence.
The contrast between The Lilac Fairy, performed by Ellis Small, and The Fairy Carabosse, played by Daria Stanciulescu, added an extra dynamic to the production. Each conjuring feelings of good and evil as the lighting and music would change accordingly to help portray their differences. Both had clear stage presence commanding our attention, with every move considered and expressive, they performed right though to their very fingertips.
Lachlan Monaghan took to the stage as Prince Florimund, to rouse the princess from her curse, he captured the essence of a fairytale prince dreamed of by many. He moved with ease and finesse around the stage stunning us with the heights to which he leapt to, then landing with such grace, never faltering from his moves, it was spectacular to witness.
The beautiful melodies of the orchestra pulled the entire performance together, notes drifted out in perfect timing with the dances showing a collaboration to be marvelled at. I felt the music wash over me and pull at my heart increasing the spell in which the ballet had me under. As a pivotal role in telling the tale I found that the music helped guide me through the emotions of the scenes, helping me to understand the story and feelings of the characters, it was powerful and unforgettable experience.
My first visit to the ballet was truly mesmerising, a sentiment shared throughout the audience as I heard this word uttered by many. If like me you are new to ballet and choose to immerse yourself in this production, I highly recommend treating yourself to a programme. They offer you a synopsis of what happens in each act, accompanied by a charming storyboard illustrating the key moments in the story. This takes away the pressure of trying to figure out the storyline and allows you to loose yourself in the performance, and appreciate the beauty of this ballet.
The Sleeping Beauty will be playing at Mayflower Theatre until 10th February, so if you are feeling intrigued I encourage to book your ticket immediately!
Words by Vicky Anscombe