Review: The Sleeping Beauty @ Lichfield Garrick

The Sleeping Beauty is one of my most favourite things so I was really looking forward to seeing the Vienna Festival Ballet’s version. They’re new to me and I must admit I was a bit nervous, because as well as being one of the great treasures of world theatre this is an ambitious work to stage.

The Lilac Fairy

The Lilac Fairy

For a start it’s long, three acts plus a lengthy prelude, requires several sets and a large cast who need a fair number of costumes. A work of this scope can easily overstretch the resources of a small company. Touring Russians are particularly prone to short changing audiences here, I’ve found.

But in the event this whole evening exceeded any possible expectations. It turns out that Vienna Festival Ballet are a young and vibrant company full to the brim with highly individual dancers exhuding talent, brio, vim, joie de vivre, energy, call it what you will, whose sheer enthusiasm spills over the footlights with all the controlled vibrancy and expertise this level of classicism requires, and who smile while they dance as if they’re loving every single minute. I’m sure they are.

Out of a large cast the single highest plaudits must go to Melanie Cox in the key role of Princess Aurora. She is a beautiful dancer of the highest skill, by ballet standards not the emaciated waifling currently fashionable but a real, breathing woman who in the final climactic pas de deux actually made me gasp. Full marks here to ballet maestro Peter Mallek for his inspired casting.

The last-act wedding celebration which showcases the skills of individual dancers gave Carl Hale and Simona Marsibilio as the Pussycats the chance to shine (I’ve never seen it done better) and allowed Filipe Pinheiro as the Bluebird the opportunity to follow auspiciously in a long line of stars. But the truth is, they were all good – these were merely the most outstanding.

This is the second time I’ve seen Beauty in the last month and because of its sheer freshness I enjoyed this performance far more than the overdone opulence of Birmingham Royal Ballet’s long-awaited version back in March. Please, please Garrick programmers, ask Vienna Festival Ballet back again and again. Audience response to every individual performance and the prolonged applause at the end showed this company already have a following in lovely Lichfield and I’m quite prepared to go public by saying I’m their newest fan.

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