Sleeping Beauty on Ice

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
The Imperial Ice Stars
The Lowry, Salford

Carabosse
The Lilac Fairy
The cast of Sleeping Beauty On Ice

Tchaikovsky's ballet of the famous folk tale of the princess sent to sleep by the evil fairy who was not invited to her christening until her true love wakes her with a kiss is brought to The Lowry's Lyric Theatre stage complete with a full-sized ice rink by The Imperial Ice Stars.

The full auditorium has no doubt been aided by the popular TV series Dancing On Ice with which this show not only shares part of its title but also one of its stars, as Olga Sharutenko switches from partnering Keith Chegwin on TV to taking the title role here.

Transferring ballet to the ice works well, but obviously it changes the nature of the moves. There is a sense of danger with the speed of the movement and it has a beauty of its own, but there is a lack of variety in the patterns as everything seems to be based on circles: either skating round and round in them or spinning on the spot.

The approach here owes a lot to modern circus productions, from the orchestral soft rock music to play the audience in to the aerial and ground-based acrobatics and fire work. It often appears that the production is asking the audience to applaud its skill and daring more than tell them a story like in a circus performance, as the narrative often comes adrift and the acting doesn't have the consistency or intensity we may expect from Russian theatre of the past hundred years.

In fact in many ways this looks very old-fashioned, especially the set design by Eamon D'Arcy that consists mostly of slightly wrinkled and cut cloths flown in and out, reminiscent of the nineteenth century theatre. Music is provided by the Moscow State Cinematic Orchestra conducted by Tim A Duncan, but sadly not in person. Instead we get a recording that is rather lacking in the lower frequencies and so sounds harsh and without substance.

Sharutenko dances Princess Aurora elegantly, although for a lead character she spends most of act I as a baby and most of act II asleep. Her Prince Désiré is the very princely Bogdan Berezenko. Aleksei Vasilev is the servant Catalabutte who forgets to invite bad fairy Carabosse to the christening, and he is assisted by Svitlana Pylypenko, who plays her as a comedy character but isn't given any good comic business to get the laughs.

Iuliia Odintcova brings some evil to the part of Carabosse, countered by her enemy the Lilac Fairy danced by Yulia Ashcheulova. Volodymyr Khodakivskyy and Fiona Kirk are a rather bumbling King and Queen who never seem to know what is going on in their court.

There are some impressive acrobatics some beautiful aerial movement, some nice duets and plenty of lifts and throws—it is rare for one of the girls to get across the ice without being lifted up and thrown around by one of the men—in a show that is genuinely aimed at all the family.

For me it is trying too hard to be both spectacle and art and falls short of really achieving either. However there is plenty to enjoy—and perhaps those young girls skating in stockinged feet across the bar carpet in the interval indicate that it is already stimulating the imaginations and interest of the next generation of dancers and skaters.

Reviewer: David Chadderton