In Scottish Ballet’s Sleeping Beauty, Aurora’s christening is celebrated in a Victorian country house world, on the lawn by the cedar tree.
Her wedding party is at a 1940s nightclub, with a repentant bad fairy turning up to give the bride and groom a bakelite toaster. The whole company give bright, engaged performances, bringing the twists of Ashley Page’s production to life.
The traditional Sleeping Beauty is one of ballet’s most opulent classics, demanding ranks of fairies, courtiers and attendants. Staging Tchaikovsky’s score for a much smaller company, Page has rechoreographed the ballet, making a new work to suit his forces.
With Antony McDonald’s brilliant designs, the production never looks small scale. The Victorian lawn is framed by glimpses of a grand conservatory. We move inside it for Aurora’s sixteenth birthday, the dashing pinks and oranges of the costumes standing out against a lush hothouse jungle. The dresses are opulent in colour and cut; the scenery is airy and inventive.
Page has kept some touchstones of the original Petipa’s original choreography: a few mime scenes, Aurora’s solos. I mean it as a compliment to Scottish Ballet when I wish he had kept more of the original setpieces: I’d like to see these alert soloists test themselves in Petipa’s demanding fairy variations.
Page’s solo work is fussy, with lots of squirmy torsos. His group dances have bounce, with exuberant storytelling. The production does create its own courtly world, with an atmosphere of respect and affection.
Sophie Martin is a soft-grained Aurora, with delicate line. She could bring more attack to her speedy solos, but she’s never rushed or strained. She’s most at home in the dreamier dances of the Vision scene, which show off her gentle elegance. As her Prince, Adam Blyde is quick and darting, buoyant in his solos. Eve Mutso brings some grandeur to the Lilac Fairy, with Sophie Laplane as a gleeful bad fairy.
The soloist roles are danced with conviction. Page’s prince keeps meeting other fairytale characters in the magic forest, which is why they all come to dance at his wedding. The meetings are wittily performed.
This Beauty is by far the strongest of Page’s updated classics for Scottish Ballet, with more warmth and sharper invention. In 2012, he steps down as director, following reported disagreements with the company’s management. In ten years, he has turned a troubled, demoralised troupe into a taut, confident company. It’s an impressive legacy.