The Sleeping Beauty, Coliseum, London
Monday 08 December 2008
English National Ballet's London Christmas season opens with The Sleeping Beauty, and with a real sense of magic. Kenneth MacMillan's production creates a rich fairy-tale world, full of vivid moments. If you want Christmas ballet, with tutus and lavish scenery, this is lovely. If you want a faithful, intelligent staging of a 19th-century classic, here it is, too.
This production, which MacMillan created for American Ballet Theatre, has been carefully restaged by English National Ballet's staff. Pacing and musical timing are good: Petipa's dances unfold with handsome assurance.
The other fairy godmothers circle the Lilac Fairy, a line of dancers curling and opening out. When the wicked fairy Carabosse approaches, a messenger runs in to warn of impending disaster – but he bows to the king before delivering his message. This is a court, where formal behaviour is second nature. Throughout, the stage business is well directed and lively.
Nicholas Georgiadis's costumes, designed for the American production, are richly gilded, with the different time-periods nicely marked. After a 17th-century birthday party, Aurora's 100 years' sleep brings us to an 18th-century hunting scene with well-cut riding habits, grand hats and veils. Peter Farmer's new sets are lavish, sometimes over-intricate, particularly with David Richardson's rather dim lighting. Farmer's hunt scene, a misty forest, is admirable.
The first-night Aurora, Fernanda Oliveira, gave a lucid performance. She's a confident princess, shaping her steps cleanly and dancing with momentum. Her first act solo was excellent, with clear musical phrasing to Matthew Scrivener's violin solo. Her prince, Dmitri Gruzdyev, is a limited actor, but he dances boldly and partners well.
Sarah McIlroy is a poised Lilac Fairy, shaping steps and mime gestures with the same simplicity. She gains authority with each act. André Portasio goes rather over the top as the wicked Carabosse, but he's a gifted performer. His arms sweep through the mime, fluid but strong, and his timing is excellent.
There's a superb mime performance from Michael Coleman, the Master of Ceremonies who forgot to put Carabosse on his invitation list. He's self-important but sweet, always caught up in the moment. When he discovers peasant women using banned needles, he confiscates them – then can't think where to put them, looking down at an elaborate costume that has no pockets.
To 14 December (0871 911 0200)
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 The man who filmed the Freddie Gray video has been arrested at gunpoint
- 2 Pub landlord captures moment customer falls over on CCTV – just like Del Boy did on Only Fools and Horses
- 3 Top Gear: Jodie Kidd, Philip Glenister and Guy Martin 'in advanced talks' to join show
- 4 Frankie Boyle on Scottish independence: 'In the Interests of Unity, F**k Off'
- 5 How to gain confidence and maximise your sexual potential
Penny Dreadful, series 2 episode 1, review: We're back alright, but on very familiar ground
Top Gear: Jodie Kidd, Philip Glenister and Guy Martin 'in advanced talks' to join show
Eurovision 2015: What date is the song contest and who are the favourites to win?
Game of Thrones, season 5 episode 4, review: Sansa in danger of becoming another footnote in Westeros' bloody history
Noel Gallagher 'cannot wait' to hear Oasis-inspired One Direction album but rants about 'pointless' Tidal and Spotify
In defence of liberal democracy
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
General election live: SNP suspends two members for disrupting Labour rally
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils
Andy McSmith's Sketch: Feisty audience is the real star of an enlightening show