Review: Sleeping Beauty at Empire

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Carabosse and his minions © Patrick Baldwin

English National Ballet has attempted to create one of the most beloved fairytales of all time in The Sleeping Beauty, and although long at a running time of three hours, it did not disappoint.

Performed at the Liverpool Empire, the tale is one of good versus evil, as Carabosse puts a curse on Princess Aurora that she will die when she touches anything sharp, while the Lilac Fairy tries to prevent this from happening by putting her in to a deep sleep instead.

The ballet opens in the gardens of the palace, where guests are celebrating the christening of Princess Aurora. The dancers looked so majestic, as they whirled around the stage, to Tchaikovsky’s well known score, in their opulent ball gowns and luxurious suits.

Costume designer Nicholas Georgiadis’ talents were shown off the most when Carabosse, played by Fabian Reimair, entered on a big black cart with his minions; sporting a red wig, black and gold gown, extra large ruff and a flowing cloak. He looked like an evil Queen Elizabeth I, completely contrasting with the pretty Lilac Fairy and her attendants, in their pastel coloured tulle tutus.

Kenneth MacMillan’s choreography pushes the dancers to their limits in the second act, especially Erina Takahashi, who plays Princess Aurora.

This act sees the kingdom celebrating Princess Aurora’s 16th birthday, where she has to choose a husband out of four princes. Takahashi is mesmerising, as she dances with all four men one by one, keeping en pointe on one foot for around 10 minutes, with virtually no help from anyone else.

As she glided so effortlessly around the stage, there was no doubt as to why she was chosen to play such a demanding lead, and received rapturous applause at the end of the ballet.

Act three sees Prince Desire, played by Esteban Berlanga, searching for Princess Aurora in a dream sequence. Set designer Peter Farmer excels here in creating such an ethereal atmosphere, and the illusion of a forest.

Berlanga and Takahashi have an incredibly elegant presence on stage together, meaning the audience are really rooting for them to be together, so when the Prince finally finds the Princess asleep and kisses her, it was a massive shame that it seemed to all happen too quickly, and fell a bit flat compared to the other two acts.

The final act is where the Prince and Princess get married, and is where, once again, Berlanga and Takahashi are able to take centre-stage and show off their awesome dance abilities and chemistry. Shiori Kase and Laurent Liotardo, as the Bluebird and Princess Florine, also stood out, and received nearly as much as applause as the two principles.

English National Ballet’s version of The Sleeping Beauty showcased some of the best dancing this country has to offer, and provided everything we’ve come to expect from a fairytale; comedy, drama, romance and a happy ending.


About Hayley Minn, JMU Journalism