Northern Ballet

A Sleeping Beauty Tale

Last night we went to see The Northern Ballet's 'A Sleeping Beauty Tale', with music by Tchaikovsky. Obviously it was based upon the Sleeping Beauty fairytale. This is Tchaikovsky's ballet re-imagined as a story of the people of the red and blue planets. There are spacecraft (I kid you not) and at one point, laser guns.

I recognised several of the dancers from The Three Musketeers, but it didn't really have the same energy as that excellent production. The thing seemed to plod a little. There was an opening introductory speech, followed by several minutes of curtain down whilst they did things to scenery.

The main set seemed to be in a tunnel, the flats were cut circularly. The concentric rings tended to make me think 'Tha.. tha.. that... that's all, folks!', which I don't think was the intended effect.

The entrance of the main dancer was good, she was revealed to be inside a golden ball. The cover was removed to reveal a plastic sphere with her inside. I'm amazed she didn't cramp, it was a tiny ball! Her 'first steps' were well done too, quite comic, but she was soon pirouetting and leaping with everyone else.

The 'revamp' doesn't really work for me. Tchaikovsky? Spaceships? I'm not saying this as someone who's precious about the ballet, I'm not, I just didn't think it worked. There was one guy (from the 'red planet' who reminded me of a Babylon 5 Centauri.

Essentially, the ballet followed the same structure as the classic, but instead of a spinning wheel, the princess is stabbed by a red and put into a hibernation. In the meantime the planet is ransacked by reds. This continues until Aurora is roused.

The third act dragged on somewhat, it essentially consisted of the reds slaughtering the blues, a couple of blues looking for the beauty, the red-leader (make up your own Star Wars jokes) chasing them. There was a bit of dancing around and red-leader didn't make it (he didn't die by impacting the surface). The beauty (Aurora) and a blue got it together.

As is often the case with ballet, the curtain call went on for way too long.

After The Three Musketeers, there was a high bar to clear, and for me, this fell short.

The Three Musketeers

Last night we saw David Nixon's production of 'Three Musketeers' at Woking. It was produced by the Northern Ballet Company on tour.

It was simply stunning. Given that it's a touring company we were expecting the sets to be lacklustre, but they were top notch too.

The dancing was wonderful, and the story had a bit of meat to it - difficult with only dance to tell the tale.

There were several visual jokes which worked a treat, smuggling the queen out from under the nose of Cardinal Richelieu's men was very good. The cross-dressing King of France was quite amusing (providing a motivation for the Queen to lose interest in him). The final scene was incredibly busy, boxes flying everywhere (the wooden kind, not the protective kind --- though the protectives might conceivably be wooden, I'll admit).

I knew what was going to happen with the necklace, and even then I didn't see it happen, it was very cleverly choreographed.

There was a lovely scene with Dartagnan tied to the queen's maid, two people dancing whilst roped together was a great thing to see....

The swordplay was also done well, real swashbuckling stuff. The great thing is that, unlike for the Bolshoi, we were very close to the stage - provincial theatres do that for you. This put us right up close to the action, at a lower price than the 'Auditorium' seats in Covent Garden, and with production values that were on a par.

From Woking, the Three Musketeers goes to Nottingham, Milton Keynes, Edinburgh, Sheffield, Norwich, Manchester and Belfast. (Tour Dates - will update with time). There are other productions being performed at different places (Sleeping Beauty and Christmas Carol). There is a date in Sadlers Wells (London) next summer whose production is to be confirmed.

I would advise people to give this one a try. Quotes from critics can be seen here.