Birmingham Royal Ballet: The Sleeping Beauty


It’s 40 years since Sir Peter Wright’s production of The Sleeping Beauty for the Birmingham Royal Ballet first appeared. Faithful to the original Petipa choreography, he was influenced, too, by later productions – Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes version, for instance, and Nikolai Sergeiev’s staging for the Vic-Wells (later Royal) Ballet.

So, BRB’s current production at Sadler’s Wells offers a pedigree that goes back to the very heart of Russian classical ballet – and all of the demands that go with that. To say that Sleeping Beauty is a challenge for any company is putting it mildly. There are numerous starring roles and set pieces, solos and pas de deux, and for BRB – a company that is on truly top form – this became an opportunity for pure on-stage bravura.

Daria Stanciulescu as Fairy Carabosse

Enrique Bejarano Vidal and Beatrice Parma pulled out all the stops as the Bluebird and the Enchanted Princess (characters from Russian fairy tale). The Puss-in-Boots and the White Cat pas de deux is always a favourite and Gus Payne and Yuki Sugiura clearly loved every moment. As the good Lilac Fairy, Eilis Small exuded a serenity that never wavered despite the best efforts of Carabosse – Daria Stanciulescu relishing every wicked moment.

Both were dressed in long gowns that might have hampered movement somewhat but were very much in keeping with Philip Prowse’s sumptuous designs. It doesn’t get more full-on glamour than this – glittering crystals, satins and silks, beflowered 18th century wigs, capes and trains swishing across the floor (and sometimes becoming part of the dance), all bathed (in the palace scenes) in a glorious golden light. This is a production that looks simply gorgeous and absolutely in keeping with the classical tradition.

Much of the prodigious weight of Petipa’s classical technique falls squarely on the very young shoulders of Yu Kurihara as Princess Aurora. This is a role that’s renowned for its difficulty. There are the glittering pas de deux in the final act when Aurora finally meets her prince but, long before that, comes many a challenge, not least the infamously difficult Rose Adagio where the ballerina’s balance is tested to the hilt. Kurihara looked a little nervous at times but she really didn’t need to be – her technique is simply superb.

As her prince, Lachlan Monaghan doesn’t actually appear on stage till halfway through the ballet, but he certainly made up for it then in a series of explosively good solos and pas de deux with Kurihara. (I must also put in a cheer for Kit Holder who made the tiny role of the prince’s aide, Gallison, into a small comic masterpiece.)

Yu Kurihara as Princess Aurora and Lachlan Monaghan as Prince Florimund

The evening is carried along on wave after wave of magnificent Tchaikovsky music (the Royal Ballet Sinfonia playing on top form under the baton of Philip Ellis). This is just as well as, for some, the plateaus and set pieces will slow down an already slight fairy tale. It’s a night, though, that’s simply all about the dancing. Glittering.

The Sleeping Beauty with the Birmingham Royal Ballet runs at Sadler’s Wells until 27th April. For more information, including times, ticket prices and for bookings, please visit

Photos by Tristram Kenton