I will confess at the start of this review that I am not a long time ballet-goer, nor am I an expert on the subject, but I nonetheless found this production able to perplex me and amuse me in equal measure.
The whole experience was rather bizarre. Coming to the slightly shabby-feeling New Theatre to watch a ballet in the first place was strange, since I have always associated such things with grandeur and, well, “poshness”. Then, while the dancing was done with great precision and focus, everything perfect controlled, in time, graceful, beautiful, all of the sets and costumes looked like something from a village pantomime. The audience was even treating it like a pantomime, enthusiastically booing the evil fairy. It really was a bizarre mixture of the shabby with the extravagant; there was a full orchestra which was wonderful and played the music beautifully, which I was surprised and pleased to see in such a small place, but the budget had perhaps been so stretched by this that the evil chariot that the bad fairy rode in on was just a luggage trolly painted black.
The ballet was full of what can only be described as surreal moments. The bad fairy was attended by what appears to be rat-rhinoceros hybrids as she rode around on her luggage trolly of evil, the fairies looked like aliens wearing 1950s purple shower caps, ‘Fairy Canary’ was brilliantly mental, and the king (who looked exactly like Lord Farquar from Shrek) at one point inexplicably ate a giant egg off what appeared to be a candlestick at the front of the stage.
Ekaterina Bulgutova’s Sleeping Beauty was exquisite, she had a real faunish quality about her and a charm that made her really engaging and sweet to watch. Unfortunately her hair has been sprayed liberally with so much multicoloured glitter that she appeared to be receiving messages from the mothership all night. My favourite part was the dancing between the White Cat (Nadezda Vlasova) and Puss-in-Boots (Denis Pogorely). Here more than anywhere the kooky charm of this kitsch production came into its own. The choreography was witty and sexy, the costumes were cute and wonderful and the dancers were obviously enjoying themselves. It was in these more comic moments – such as the two cats dancing together and the evil fairy- that I felt the production was in its element.
I had a wonderful night- the whole thing was hilarious. I’m not sure it was supposed to be, but the rest of the audience seemed to be laughing when I was and it really was very entertaining. But did I feel the magic? Sadly, not. And a bit of magic was what I had been hoping for, what I had been expecting. In the end it was a gaudy spectacle, eye-catching, entertaining, but that was it. Perhaps there would be more for the ballet aficionado who could, better than I, appreciate the technical precision of the dancers, but for me it was great fun, and unfortunately nothing more.
2 and a half stars