Matthew Bourne’s ‘Sleeping Beauty’ re-imagines the classic fairytale with a gothic twist. This contemporary ballet, like Princess Aurora, is a thing of true beauty. Utterly captivating from start to finish, with humour delicately interwoven and a vampire or two thrown in for good luck.
This production was incredibly refreshing, and while it nods to the upstanding traditions of classical ballet, it is happy to drastically re-write the rule book on a number of things. To some, ballet is synonymous with men in tights, pointe shoes and epic acts of considerable length. This reimagining is wonderfully up-to-date and thrilling to behold. Most of the performance is carried out bare-foot by all the performers, and there is no Lycra in sight. Furthermore, the running time is just right. At just over 2 hours (including an interval), the whole audience seemed very comfortable.
This production was special for a number of reasons; most prominently, the puppetry used to bring baby Aurora to life. This mischievous little girl climbed curtains, crawled around with lifelike determination and cooed in her cot as a group of fairies danced around her. The costumes, particularly for the fairies, are simply stunning, but it is the set designs and staging by Lez Brotherston and Associate Director Etta Murfitt, which provide the ultimate ‘wow-factor’ in this production.
Each member of the cast was exemplary. Ashley Shaw led the cast as Princess Aurora with grace and ease. Her smile is so inviting, you cannot help but be spellbound by her. Her dancing is completely absorbing and enchanting. In ActThree, when Caradoc is desperately trying to wake Aurora, Shaw dances as if she is sleeping. Her body is ‘limp’ and ‘uncontrolled’, and she does this with remarkable skill. Furthermore, her chemistry with Chris Trenfield as Leo, The Royal Gamekeeper is palpable. Their duets were the highlights of the evening; bursting with romance and heart-warming chemistry.
Christopher Marney (Associate Choreographer) was superb as Count Lilac, King of the Fairies. He commanded the stage with exceptional presence and performed his role magnificently. From the ensemble, Kate Lyons as Hibernia was outstanding. Her solo performance in Act I was completely beguiling. Liam Mower as Tantrum (and various other roles in the ensemble) was also excellent. His form is simply stunning and it was a joy to see just how far he has come since his Billy Elliot days.
Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty takes storytelling to new heights. There are a few moments which left some audience members (myself included) confused, and a little extra clarity at times wouldn’t have gone amiss, however, overall, this production really is special.
In true Bourne fashion, Sleeping Beauty challenges traditional ballet and in turn, becomes a remarkable, original and stunning work of art. This production is wondrous and filled with enchanting moments for all to enjoy.
Review by Harriet Langdown