Review: The Sleeping Beauty, Scottish Ballet

The Sleeping Beauty Theatre Royal, Glasgow

By Mark Brown

Premiered in Glasgow in December 2007, Scottish Ballet’s imaginative reinvention of The Sleeping Beauty receives a richly deserved revival. Typically of the yuletide productions created by Ashley Page (the show’s choreographer, and soon departing artistic director of Scottish Ballet) and Antony McDonald (who designed the piece), this ballet sets Tchaikovsky’s gorgeous, swirling music in the midst of a great whirl of comic touches, almost surreal innovations and clever, historical references. One can only imagine what the work’s original choreographer, Marius Petipa, would have made of the eponymous heroine being put to sleep by pricking her finger on the needle of a cactus plant given to her by wicked fairies disguised as gardeners.

The beauty of the show is that it dances perfectly upon a tightrope, maintaining a tremendous balance between the traditional and the outlandish. The party in celebration of the christening of the soon-to-be-cursed Princess Aurora could, in many ways, have been created by Petipa himself: an imperial Russian garden becomes a blaze of early-19th century Regency colour. However, with the arrival of the witch Carabosse (the scintillatingly jagged Kara McLaughlin) and her egg-headed, Vulcan-eared daughters (Pina and Lucinda), we are confronted with an image which might have emanated from the visual imagination of Hieronymous Bosch.

McDonald’s designs entail a pleasing combination of the genteel and the gothic. Sleeping Beauty is laid down in a great, Victorian glasshouse which becomes a sinister, overgrown jungle, full of rotting skeletons.

Equally pleasing is Page’s witty take upon narrative conventions. Eve Mutso (in a lovely return to the role of the Queen), faints and swoons when Carabosse is on the scene with a melodramatic, faux “femininity” which is belied by her evident emotional robustness; not least when staring disapprovingly at the King (Owen Thorne, new to the part) when he shows a comically obvious interest in the flirtatious French maid.

Claire Robertson and Erik Cavallari return triumphantly to the roles of Princess Aurora and her Prince. From the Prince’s encounters with various fairytale beauties (from Little Red Riding Hood to Snow White) in the enchanted forest to the couple’s nuptials in an art deco hotel somewhere in post-Second World War Europe, the dancers are as captivating and dynamic, both singly and together, as they were four years ago.

Rating – FOUR stars

This review was originally published on the website of the Daily Telegraph on December 19, 2011

© Mark Brown

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