26 Apr 2024

Birmingham Royal Ballet - Sleeping Beauty

A second dose of classical magic as Miki Mizutani and Max Maslen lead out BRB at Sadler’s Wells…

Miki Mizutani and Max Maslen in The Sleeping Beauty. © Caroline Holden.Miki Mizutani and Max Maslen in The Sleeping Beauty. © Caroline Holden.

Birmingham Royal Ballet
The Sleeping Beauty
★★★★✰ 25 April 2024
London, Sadler’s Wells

Through the 1990s I remember regularly taking my mum to see the Birmingham Royal Ballet (BRB) Sleeping Beauty, and she declared it (many times!) her favourite ballet. She always raved about the magnificent glittery ending, and regardless of what may have happened before on stage, the bad weather, the cost of housing, or the state of the nation generally, you can’t fail to be deeply moved by it. Last night was no different, as a blissful moment made the world a much better place. Thank you, BRB, for what will undoubtedly be the most uplifting ballet moment of the year.

I caught up with the current tour two months ago in Birmingham and was 4-star impressed - worth a read for overall impressions of the production. In truth, last night’s show (the second in London) was much more uneven. Sleeping Beauty is a huge ballet spectacle and BRB is not a huge company, so fielding different casts for a plethora of named roles can be a stretch at times. But Beauty is also about wave after wave of classical dance, and somehow Peter Wright’s production wafts you through the unevenness as the company pulls together, stands tall and looks radiant. Philip Prowse’s luxury costuming also elevates the dazzle factor when the dancing might occasionally sag.

What particularly elevated the night for me was Miki Mizutani’s Princess Aurora. It’s a ballet that most view as about classical technical perfection but what Mizutani delivers is gorgeous musicality, lyrical phrasing, and an infectiously joyous bounce in all she does. You also believe in her as a human character - she has an inner dazzle and that naturalness really draws us in. Max Maslen’s Prince Florimund was dazzled, too, and he proved a safe pair of hands if some of his solos felt a little too effortful.

I also enjoyed Gabriel Anderson’s Amazonian and haughty take on Carabosse - you so wanted to shout Boo!” every time he prowled the stage. And as his opposite number, Eilis Small’s Lilac Fairy felt made of the same stuff as Mizutani - a natural dazzle coupled with confident, stately movement and somebody you would trust with your life. Bravo. And I have to repeat what I said before regarding Rory Mackay’s beautifully-rendered Master of Ceremonies (Catalabutte), a masterclass in bringing a role to vivid life, and not just when under the spotlight.

Overall, BRBs Beauty lifts the spirits, and I was glad to see it again, especially with Miki Mizutani in the lead. But, whoever is dancing, this is so notably a whole company effort, and I hope you can catch them (only a few tickets remain) in a style of work that is rarely seen on the Wells stage.