The Sleeping Beauty, Scottish Ballet review at Edinburgh Festival Theatre

The Sleeping Beauty Ballet, choreographed by Ashley Page and produced by Scottish Ballet, was the blog’s destination this past Saturday. This was Sleeping Beauty’s final night in Edinburgh before its branded truck heads to Aberdeen, Inverness and Newcastle.

The Sleeping Beauty ballet was performed at Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre, a venue I really like. The interior has all the history you’d expect, while the modern glass facade provides welcome space to enjoy a drink or two. I prefer a night at the Festival Theatre rather than Edinburgh Playhouse; more space to explore during the interval and, I think, marginally more space when seated. Photographs and ticket stubs of famous days gone by, for instance when Laurel and Hardy visited Edinburgh, adorn some of the Festival Theatre’s walls, but I really wish they’d display these historical gems more prominently.

The Sleeping Beauty ballet curtain at Edinburgh's Festival theatre The Sleeping Beauty ballet programme insert

Now, I’m no ballet expert, but I do enjoy it. The Sleeping Beauty was no exception to my enjoyment - the costumes, imaginative set design, live orchestra and excellent view, afforded by our seats in the Dress Circle were the definite highlights. The Sleeping Beauty is the third in a trilogy of fairytale themed ballets from Scottish Ballet, with The Nutcracker and Cinderella preceding this.

I was grateful for my high quality programme, which explained the overture, prologue and three acts in good detail. The costume design was striking, and continued throughout, during the overture where we see the Lilac fairy blessing the King and Queen’s attempt to conceive a child.

The prologue shows the christening of Princess Aurora in Russia. The contrast between idyllic photos being taken of the good fairy, along with five other gift bearing fairies from the enchanted forest and the ensuing scene of chaos when the bad fairy (Carabosse) ruins the party, along with her hideous daughters is startling. The pushing, shoving and chasing of the pram gives particular energy and the horror the father feels over his precious daughter being cursed by the bad fairy is all too evident.

We are shown Princess Aurora’s 16th birthday party in Act One. Again, sheer joyous celebration is startlingly contrasted by Carabosse’s and her daughters’ mischievous appearance, where they masquerade as gardeners. Princess Aurora is attracted to the huge flowery cactus they wheel in and, true to the fairytale, she pricks her finger and falls into a 100 year sleep.

Act Two is set in the Enchanted Forest and the Prince is shown a vision of the Princess; a vision which leaves him in love with her. The additions of Snow White, Belle, Cinderella and Red Riding Hood wandering aimlessly though the forest, looking for their own happy ending, is a great touch. Indeed, they find their happy endings and celebrate them later on at the wedding. I found this whole act rather light and enchanting, with The Prince (Gregory Dean) holding the act together, a solo where he holds a rifle sticks in the memory.

The third and final act was The Wedding Reception. Two world wars and a revolution meant the Princess was to be wed in a very different world from that 100 years ago; now the royal family live off their wealth in smart European hotels. Like all weddings it went on too long: there were a few too many solo performances, especially the now hugely annoying bluebird, who left the stage, only to come back for another performance. And another performance. And another. Who invited him anyhow? However, a jaw droppingly good pas de deux by the newlyweds made amends and, in doing so, stole the show - this was my favourite part of the whole production.

The audience raised a laugh when the Princess was given a toaster as a wedding present and exited the stage. This brought an end to The Sleeping Beauty and an end to another very good Scottish Ballet production.

The star of the show, for me, was Princess Aurora (Soon Ja Lee). Her grace, elegance and control of stage stood out from the rest. When she entered the stage your senses stood to attention - she genuinely was the real Beauty in the whole production. And while The Sleeping Beauty didn’t take my breath away, it provided a great night of appropriately themed entertainment.

Romeo and Juliet is the next large scale production by Scottish Ballet, in May/June 2008. This Sleeping Beauty production and the incredible Prokofiev score, means The Edinburgh Blog will be in attendance.

5 Responses to “The Sleeping Beauty, Scottish Ballet review at Edinburgh Festival Theatre”

  1. Hi,

    I’m a frequent reader of your blog and wanted to thank you for that! I also wanted to comment on The Sleeping Beauty a coulple of things. Just wanted to point out that classical ballets have a fixed coreography which leaves little space to variations. Of course there can be interpretations and I think that the Scottish ballet made a great job in trying to put a pint of modernity in the ballet but the variations are just what they are. This is just to say that it doesn’t really make sense to say as a critic that the wedding “went on too long: there were a few too many solo performances”, because the number of solo performances is prefixed by the ballet itself. Apart from that I do agree with your critic, it was a beautiful performance and very friendly to not experts in my opinion so congratulations to the Scottish ballet!

  2. We saw Sleeping Beauty in Aberdeen yesterday and thought this blog really captured our views as well.
    Certainly, the number of solos and duets are prefixed by the ballet but they did go on and on and … Was that a problem with the ballet or the performers or Paige’s contribution? That being said, we had a thoroughly enjoyable evening and would recommend anyone to go.
    Fittingly, the loudest applause of the evening came for the Conductor of the Orchestra who, once again, performed magnificently.

  3. […] was Scottish Ballet’s second major production within six months, after their excellent Christmas premiere of Sleeping Beauty. Maybe the strains of such a schedule has taken its toll somewhat on the fundamentals of Romeo and […]

  4. […] off in Glasgow on 6th December and will be in Edinburgh from 7th to 10th January next year. As The Edinburgh Blog’s previous review shows a night at The Edinburgh Festival Theatre watching The Sleeping Beauty is a great way to […]

  5. The blog gives an excellent description, overview and balanced critique of Sleeping Beauty at which I too spent an enjoyable evening at Festival Theatre yesterday evening. I agree that the wedding scene included too many solo performances and is it indeed the case that such performances are prefexed by the ballet itself when there seems to be a good deal of flexibility shown within other scenes. Apologies if my lack of ballet knowledge makes this an ill conceived opinion. My greatest enjoyment was during the 16th birthday scene when Aurora dances with each and all of the suitors. A joy to watch and listen. Thank you to all concerned.

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