The Sleeping Beauty – Birmingham Hippodrome

Music: Pyotr Illyich Tchaikovsky

Choreographer: Marius Petipa/Peter Wright

Reviewer: John Kennedy

Shamelessly romantic, this Sleeping Beauty awakens the senses through a seduction of somnambulant stealth. Firmly in the classical repertoire’s treasure-chest marked Opulent Baroque: Excess In All Arenas, tonight’s extravagant costume-drama from the wardrobe of Mount Olympus blushes not a jot at its OTT self-indulgence. Philip Prowse’s design, an opulent neo-classical Renaissance fusion of Piranesi perspectives and Palace of Versailles is caressed in Neo-Romantic lighting from Peter Teigen (based on Mark Jonathan’s original work). Dark and light, good and bad are the universal themes, but as ever, the Devil always gets the best costumes.

The Bad Fairy Carabosse (Nao Sakuma) is swathed in sweeping black and silver-spangled majesty. She is part prom-queen at a día de muertos camp disco, part vamp Cruella de Vil. Her demonic cohort cavort and prowl like piratical panthers with a dash of Alice Cooper épée-swishing derring-doom. A golden obelisk stands prominently upstage/centre. Much might be read into its symbolism.

A psycho-sexual conceit has it that the Sleeping Beauty myth rests on the symbolism of her emerging adolescent being kept virgo-intacta, away from the predatory ambitions of unsavoury men. This certainly informs on the leery competition between the powder and wig pompous court gentlemen vying for the princess’ favours during her coming of age celebratory performance.

Undoubtedly the evening belongs to Princess Aurora/Sleeping Beauty, Momoko Hirata. Her solo, pas de deux and ensemble execution is one of exquisite form, grace and seemingly effortless fluidity. It is from the mist-blanketed forest dream scene and thereon where Mathias Dingman as the Prince Florimund throws off his character’s rather gauche, regal formality and becomes a lithe spirit of air-bound sensuality.

With so many ensemble pieces of dizzying distraction there become moments of overload detachment as though watching a magical doll’s house of impossibly articulate automata each seeking its own soul’s vital spark. Most certainly though, this meets its antithesis in Act Three at the Imperial Wedding ballroom glitz showcase. Self-referencing fairy-tale tropes draw wittily and near literally on Tchaikovsky’s score inspiring an eclectic creature carnival of anthropomorphic, delightful vignettes. Kit Holder and Yvette Knight as Puss-In-Boots and the White Cat exploit this with more than up-to-scratch feline anarchy during the clarinet solo. A balletic bombardment of the senses, opera-by-mime to some of Romanticism’s greatest hits from Russia’s greatest love-theme machine – this production hug-crushes the heart in a virtuous vice made of kittens.

Runs until 24 February 2018 | Image: Bill Cooper

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The Central team is under the editorship of Selwyn Knight. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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