Review: The Sleeping Beauty, Festival Theatre

It’s not often one gets to compare a ballet to Peter Jackson’s Lord of The Rings, but Tchaikovsky’s The Sleeping Beauty shares a number of similarities with the lengthy fantasy saga.


For one, it’s epic in scale, the original ballet running at a hearty four hours, including intermissions – three without. Both the film and the ballet come in three parts and notably have endings that run on and on and on. Scottish Ballet’s mercifully short adaptation, two hours and fifty minutes with intermissions, at the Festival Theatre this week also has the added bonus of two wicked fairies, Pina and Lucinda, that look somewhat like mischievous Orcs.

Bringing a meditative quality to the classic work, choreographer Ashley Page has focussed on melding a number of different tellings of the work into one evolving piece. It seems that his overriding theme is to chart changes in ballet and dance style as the story progresses over 116 years. Thus the dancers take centre stage rather than Tchaikovsky’s often eccentric narrative.

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For anyone unfamiliar with the piece, the interlude in the Enchanted Forest where a young bluebird leads the prince to Sleeping Beauty’s bed via the rounding up of some other well known princesses, may seem far less innocent than the story intends. Particularly when the ballet novice you’re with has decided that Red Riding Hood is a covert reference to Dorothy Gale.

What this concentration on the dancers provides is a wonderful sequence of duets between the cast’s principals intermixed with dazzling visual wit. As couple after couple take centre stage to perform riffs on the themes Page has provided, the audience have the opportunity to bask in the skill and fluidity of the performers.

What suffers, however, is the chance for characters to really develop their own narratives in the piece. We have as little understanding of the character and personality of Princess Aurora, Claire Robertson, at the end of the production as we did at the beginning. She is a mere victim of circumstance rather than an active participant. And as we learnt from Frodo, the last thing you want is to sit back and let events overtake you.

Runs until January 14