version of Sleeping Beauty brings Tchaikovsky's music into a drug culture environment. The List cuts through the controversy surrounding the Edinburgh International Festival show by catching an early performance in Madrid. Words: Neil Cooper
THE FIRST THING THE TAXI DRIVER WHISKING
me from the airport to the centre of Madrid
does is want me about the high proportion of
junkies and prostitutes in the neighbourhood. The second is to fleece me blind. but that‘s another story. Due to the pan-liuropean language barrier. pidgen linglish gives vvay to an elaborate mime of the driver shooting a needle into his vein. lt‘s exaggerated. grotesque and. having jtist jetted in from liurope‘s so-called drug capital and some-time liestival (‘ity. not a little unnerving. I see the self—same mime a fevv hours later when vaeden‘s prestigious (‘ullberg Ballet company take the stage of the city‘s vast. airy and very. very clean 'l‘eatro de .Vladrid.
It‘s a familiar story they‘re telling tip there. Boy meets girl and falls head over heels on the way to domestic bliss. an ideal home and all the trappings of the nuclear family. lixcept that the little Princess vvho results from this love match doesn‘t quite see it that way. She‘s at that difficult age. every mother‘s nightmare. as sullen as they come. and wants out of Mum and
Dads humdrum existence. It doesn‘t matter
what her four sexy aunties do to protect her. She‘s got big dreams. this kid. and she’s going to make them real. liven if it kills her. She needs excitement. oh she needs it bad: teenage kicks. pills. thrills. belly-aches and heartbreaks. She
16 THE “ST 22 Jul—S Aug 1999
Thetaxi driver mimes shooting a needle into his vein. It's exaggerated, grotesque and not a little unnerving.
falls in with the wrong crovvd. is svvept off her feet by a handsome devil who promises her the world. Another world. Which is vvhere the needles do the damage ~ the final high. the great escape. too much too young.
So stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Drugs 'litcrature' no\v reads as clapped out and predictable as Mills and Boon. as dreary as the dopehead dribbling in the corner. as secondhand as a shared syringe. And the performing arts. being the johnny-come—latelys they always are. have cottoned on later than the rest. They‘ve missed the last connection. thst as the real action‘s moved elsevvhere.
lixcept that performance above is Sleeping Beauty. You knovv: 'l'chaikovsky. tights and tutus. a fairytale ending of happy-ever—afters. llappy'.’ (Erim. more like. Beautiful too. in a funny. heartbreaking. irreverent ~ though never irrelevant — kind of way. And. despite scurrilous tabloid attention to the contrary. it's not some cheap-shot softcore piece of drugsploitation to help \vell-heeled thrill—seekers feel cosy in their oh—so-cutting-edgeness. Oh. no. (‘ullberg Ballet‘s Sleeping Beautv — \vhich arrives in lidinburgh as the centrepiece of the International l’estival‘s major retrospective of maverick vaedish choreographer Mats lik — isn‘t like that at all. It‘s . . . \vell . . . gorgeous.
'lt’s a love story.‘ chime (‘ullberg artistic directors Margareta Lidstrom and Lena Wennergren-Juras in unison. visibly horrified by the very idea that they could ever be perceived as corrupters of youth. Quite right too. because they‘re both lovely. playful at having to play the PR game. amused by a journalist‘s unfamiliar accent. The pair took over The (‘ullberg from lik in 1995. and come across as ferociously maternal in their protection of his vision. ()nly that honour really goes to Birgit ('ullberg. who founded The ('ullberg way back in l‘)()7 before lik‘s seccession in l985. and is actually lik‘s real-life mother. l.idstrom and Wennergren-Juras danced leading roles for them both. Like Sleeping Beauty. ('ullherg Ballet is a real family affair.