Review Date: January 13 2020
Performances: January 13 2020, 7.30pm
Location: Empire Theatre, Liverpool
Duration: 130 Minutes incl. an interval
Age Rating: 5+
Providing an international flair to some classic ballet shows, Russian State Ballet Of Siberia are in the process of a two-day run at Liverpool’s Empire Theatre, with their first offering being the timeless tale of Sleeping Beauty.
Contrary to what some attendees may believe, the ballet came before the vintage Disney animated movie; long before, in fact, as The Sleeping Beauty first hit the stage back in 1890, with the music composed by the legendary Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. All of his works are iconic ballet productions, and Sleeping Beauty is no exception.
The setting is a grand palace in the heart of the European capital, with King Florestan XXIV and his Queen having welcomed into the world a new Princess by the name of Aurora. A ceremony is held to mark the occasion, with the many attendees for this pleasant event including The Lilac Fairy, who aims to bring positivity and good luck to the new baby. However, the dastardly Carabosse, a Fairy from the dark side, arrives and disrupts the celebration in the worst way possible: as retribution for not being invited, Carabosse casts a wicked spell on Aurora, which will come to life on her 16th birthday.
Fast-forward to that day, when Aurora (now a superb dancer with a world of potential) is joined by all who are significant in her life as this milestone of her journey in time is marked with another grand party. The King is cautious, yet able to enjoy the event with the hope that the spell of years gone by is not going to be activated. However, Carabosse does indeed arrive on the scene in disguise, and manages to orchestrate a situation whereby Aurora pricks her finger (you’d think that her parents would have warned her beforehand), thus causing the spell to actually occur. She is not dead, but she does enter a hundred-year sleep. It is only when a century of time has elapsed that Aurora might be able to return to her original state, and the hope for the King and co. is that Lilac Fairy will be able to cast enough magic to ensure that Carabosse’s vile plot does not succeed in the (very) long run.
The costumes have been designed with great authenticity, and the mixture of a screen backdrop and water-colour artwork for the stage setting proves to be wise; not only are the backdrops effective and true to the story, but they also offer a visual that is pleasing on the eye, making you feel like you are witnessing something rather special indeed. I liked how lighting would alter the perception of the backgrounds in line with the tone and mood of a particular scene, an example being how fire encompasses the outer layer of the ballroom when Carabosse arrives.
As it is ballet, we are to rely on dance and facial expressions for storytelling as opposed to dialogue, and the performers themselves do a fantastic job in this regard. For the dancing itself, Aurora is an extremely talented dancer, and she handles the role with great aplomb. A shout-out, too, to Prince Desire who surfaces during the second Act, and though his tights offer a sight that may be occasionally distracting to certain people in the audience, the focus remains on his superb dancing, as he and Aurora form a perfect partnership that allows them to step into the pointe shoes with strong efficiency.
Not forgetting the orchestra, who ultimately create the audible basis on which these highly skilled dancers can perform, capturing the vibe that has been set either by a feel-good coming-together, or a concerning twist of fate. In ballet especially, the music is vitally important, and in that respect, the team here succeeded tremendously. I will say that the crowd wasn’t the most enthusiastic, with the performers having occasional awkward waits for applause, though this improved as the show went on.
Ballet is one of theatre’s great genres, and tales like this will be told until the end of time. For now, though, theatre-goers should really enjoy getting to witness Sleeping Beauty performed live, with Russian State Ballet Of Siberia putting together one of the stronger productions of the story that I have seen to date.
Target Audience: All Ages
Content: 0/5 – No Content Likely To Offend
Overall Rating: 8.5/10 – Excellent