The Sleeping Beauty
Filled with romantic notions of goodness and presenting a beguiling characterisation of evil, Marcia Haydee's The Sleeping Beauty is an elegant interpretation of a classic fairytale.
Performed admirably by the West Australian Ballet, it is a great chance to rekindle childhood fantasies. If you are only going to take your family to one ballet this year, make it this one.
With WASO playing the lush Tchaikovsky score under the baton of Myron Romanul, the drab Burswood Theatre house curtain rises.
Revealed is a scene straight out of a beautifully illustrated children's book of old and it is a pleasure to be transported.
This is a venue void of warmth, both in acoustics and ambience, and performers on stage and in the pit, and audiences, have to work hard against its vacuum.
Costumes and sets by Pablo Nunez wash the stage in courtly elegance and muted hues of Louis XV and are attractively lit by Jose Luis Fiorruccio. At times the use of a voluminous black silk contemporises the otherwise traditional feel.
Following closely the traditional choreography of Petipa, Haydee has imbued the work with new dynamism in the reinterpreted role of the evil fairy Carabosse.
Returning the role to the domain of the male dancer, Haydee (working originally with Richard Cragun in the role) has instilled the character with kabuki-style gender ambiguity. Coils of feminine cruelty unwind through beautifully articulated hands and sinuous arms. Spring-loaded with masculine force, this is a Carabosse who makes evil positively delicious.
Alain Honorez as Carabosse (stepping in for an injured Ben Marrett) is a show stealer. He fleshes out the psychological scope this more fully developed character offers with passion and finesse.
As the Lilac Fairy, the foil to all this evil, Jennifer Provins struggles to convey the warmth and lightness necessary and the choreography seems to leave her occasionally directionless against a dynamic Carabosse.
Yu Takayama looks every bit the princess. Her performance as Princess Aurora is lithe, precise but understandably concentrated; technically this role is an unforgiving fiend.
Lovely technique is not enough to win the battle against evil, however, and her theatrical presence has yet to permeate the stage. It will come; she is an artist in the making.
Sergey Pevnev is an elegant Prince Desire. In him, we find the artistry that makes those childhood fantasies stick.
Vivid performances are given by all the Good Fairies of Act 1 and in an overlong Act 3, by David Mack (the Wolf) and the underused Daryl Brandwood (Ali Baba). The Bluebird pas de deux was clean and precise but failed to enchant.
The company swells its ranks to 64 performers for this production. Local children, students from WAAPA and schools overseas are well rehearsed and perform cleanly to blend among the company proper. There was only the occasional evidence of as yet un-honed stagecraft.
Under the watchful eyes of ballet's grand dames, Haydee and recently Lucette Aldous, these dancers and their audiences are beginning to reap the dividends.
The corps de ballet give the corps of the Australian Ballet's recently seen production of Swan Lake a run for their money. Such attention to detail and respect for form help build the magic and transport an audience into the land of make believe.
The story's narrative arc is weakened when key moments are skimmed over.
Blink and you miss true love's kiss, for instance: the moment when it all happens and evil is - for the time being - conquered. But it is a minor complaint in an enjoyable evening.
By all accounts this is an adventurous undertaking by the company, but one that is sure to bring the audiences in.
The Sleeping Beauty runs until September 25.