Wednesday, 21 April 2010
Last night I took my dear friend (and old student) ALICE WOOD to see The Sleeping Beauty ballet, performed by the Birmingham Royal Ballet at the London Coliseum.(Alice is a fantastic illustrator and writer, a person of real depth and integrity with a superlative talent. Click on her name to find out all about her.)
It was a spectacular production, one I remember from many years ago, when performed in an enormous big top on Jesus green in Cambridge. When set up in a grand old theatre like The Coliseum, it seemed even more sumptuous.
Last summer I was bitterly disappointed by the Kirov's Swan Lake. I began to doubt my attachment to ballet as an art form. The Birmingham Royal Ballet have completely redeemed everything. I was bowled over by the superb designs, the dazzling and musical choreography, the majesty of Tchaikovsky's score. But what impressed me the most was the storytelling of the whole company. Nothing was wasted, no opportunities missed for gesture or setting to match the mood of the music in communicating a narrative. Throughout, minor charactors were given tasks, miming conversation, and developing their own relationships on stage. In the famous Act 1 waltz, Aurora's four suitors stride in one at a time full of nuance and personality. Everything came alive in a way I've only rarely experienced.
A few new details were present as well, in particular a new pas de deux for the Prince and Aurora sat the end of Act 2 (after the kiss). It was touching and sensual and added depth to their characters I felt.
The designs by Philip Prowse were handsome, rich but not fussy, enough left to the imagination to bring real magic. The lighting gave everything a late-summer sunshine feeling, with a hint of autumn: layers of gold and russet, verdigris and silver. Exquisite! The extraordinary costumes were frankly operatic in their sumptuousness, but in fact cleverly designed to not only enhance the mood and palette of the scene, but to be possibly to dance in as well. All was elegance, grace, beauty. Even Carabosse, the wicked fairy (danced by Marion Tait) was all haughty elegance and dark beauty.
Nao Sakuma from Japan received the loudest cheers as Aurora (poised and delicate in her "Rose adagio"), and not far behind was her very handsome prince - Iain Mackay from Glasgow (where I will be in just a few days - see Katie's Picture Show). But even the minor characters dazzled. Not all was perfect or in sync. But the sum of the parts showed a really vibrant, happy, smiling company in celebratory form.
Alice and I loved every minute, from the stylised christening, to the fairytale wedding (with Puss In Boots and Red Riding Hood) and on to the grand finale when the whole company was showered in gold confetti.