Yu Kurihara as Princess Aurora and Lachlan Monaghan as Prince Florimund.

Picture: Tristram Kenton

The Sleeping Beauty

Birmingham Royal Ballet

Birmingham Hippodrome


Perfection can only ever be an ambition in theatre, but BRB came within sight of it as far as the audience were concerned with a magnificent performance of Tchaikovsky’s fairy tale ballet.

Full of colour and elegance, it was flamboyant storytelling in dance, with some wonderful individual performances all earning a final curtain greeted with cheers and prolonged applause.

The opening lays down the tone for one of the most sumptuous ballets in BRB’s repertoire with its vast Philip Prowse designed Baroque sets and elaborate, rich costumes. It was the second of Tchaikovsky’s trio of ballets, and by far the longest – the original, usually shortened these days, ran to four hours at its premiere in St Petersburg in 1890.

BRB’s Peter Wright version runs to two hours, 50 minutes with two intervals.

The story is simple, we open at the christening of the baby Princess Aurora, daughter of King Florestan XXI (Jonathan Payn) and his Queen (Tori Forsyth-Hecken).

All the great and good of the land are there except – big mistake - someone forgot to invite the Fairy Carabosse who is none too chuffed about that but turns up anyway in a dramatic entrance with darkness and thunder, she is dressed in funereal black and carried shoulder-high on a sinister sort of sedan seat by a bunch of black-clad wraiths.

Her christening gift is a curse that Aurora will prick her finger on a spindle and die. It might be the thought that counts but as thoughts and presents go, perhaps not the best, but, as luck would have it, the Lilac Fairy was invited, so uses her gift to tone it down a bit so the Princess will only sleep for a hundred years then be wakened by a kiss from a passing prince.


Eilis Small as The Lilac Fairy and Daria Stanciulescu as Fairy Carabosse

Move on a few years and Aurora is now a young lady with four hopeful suitor princes (Gabriel Anderson, Haoliang Feng, Miles Gilliver and Mason King) dancing at her birthday party.

Japanese first soloist Yu Kurihara makes a beautiful Aurora, with quick, precise footwork and that easy graceful elegance in her dancing that makes the difficult look simple. Some of her balance in pointe work was exceptional.

The old princess doesn’t have a lot of luck with parties though, so some guest turns up and gives her a bunch of flowers as a present. How nice, except there is a spindle hidden inside – no prizes for guessing what happens next or who the guest was.

Romanian dancer Daria Stanciulescu as Carabosse was seen by some as being too attractive and looked too nice to be a baddy, but then again film and literature is littered with stunning women with a penchant for evil, and although she might not be an old crone or even Miss Whiplash, she had enough air of danger and malevolence about her to make it wise to keep out of her way . . . and, don’t forget, Romania is where you find Transylvania . . . just saying . . .

She doesn’t half give the master of ceremonies, Rory Mackay, in charge of the invitations, a hard time, a lesson for those who thought she was too nice. He doesn’t need to tear his hair out about his mistake, she does it for him!

While Carabosse was on the dark side, leading the goodies was The Lilac Fairy danced by Australian Eilis Small, with the pair almost mirror negative images of each other, which worked well.

With the court all asleep we have a hundred year wait –about 25 minutes in ballet time – for our hero, Prince Florimund danced by Lachlan Monaghan, to appear in a hunting party and work out what his role is supposed to be in this fairy tale – quick witted is not a term he would ever be blessed with as The Lilac Fairy goes through the whole gamut of a game of charades to finally get him on track.

prince and fairy

Yu Kurihara as Princess Aurora, Eilis Small as The Lilac Fairy, and Lachlan Monaghan as Prince Florimund

One of the lovely things about this ballet, similar to Tchaikovsky’s final ballet, The Nutcracker, is that it gives an opportunity for a whole range of dancers to perform party pieces from ensemble dances to individual items such as the six fairies and their cavaliers in the prologue (Isabella Howard and Findlay-White; Sofia Liñares and Riku Ito; Rachele Pizzillo and Oscar Kempsey-Fagg; Reina Fuchigami and Enrique Bejarano Vidal; Momoko Hirata and Shuailun Wu and Lucy Waine and Mason King) and the novelty dances at the wedding scene in the final act.

Here we see Puss-in-Boots and the White Cat with Gus Payne and Isabella Howard; The Bluebird and the Enchanted Princess with Enrique Bejarano Vidal and Sofia Liñares, with some excellent solo dancing from the pair, and finally Red Riding Hood and the Wolf with Tessa Hogge and Gabriel Anderson.

We end with the grand pas de deux with Aurora and the Prince in a pairing which worked beautifully together with the Prince having one solo so fast and athletic even the audience was left breathless while Aurora showed all the delicacy and daintiness of every little girl’s dream of a ballerina.

If there was a criticism then it was right at the start with the baby Aurora. Surely with the wonderful sets and authentic looking props that BRB create for all their productions, they could come up with something that looked more like a real baby than an artefact recovered from some pharaoh’s tomb.

As always another star of the performance was the excellent Royal Ballet Sinfonia under conductor Philip Ellis bringing Tchaikovsky’s score to life.

The Sleeping Beauty runs to 02-03-24 and then on tour to Salford, Sunderland, Plymouth, Bristol and Sadler’s Wells.

Roger Clarke



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