Theatre Review - Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty

Matthew Bourne’s distinctive adaption of Sleeping Beauty celebrates its tenth anniversary with a festive run at Sadler’s Wells.

The Sleeping Beauty narrative is fairly simple. A princess is cursed by an angry fairy and made to sleep for a hundred years. She can only be woken by the kiss of a handsome prince. This leaves little room for narrative tension and it’s hard to feel for the hero when we know nothing about him.

Bourne elaborates the tale and imbues Tchaikovsky’s ballet with some darker notes. He introduces a love affair between Princess Aurora (Ashley Shaw) and Leo, the Royal Gamekeeper (Andrew Monaghan), and adds a gothic twist.

His version opens in 1890 with Aurora’s birth and christening. The baby princess is brought gloriously to life as a feisty puppet. There follows several fairy variations and an imaginative vision scene.

In 1911, Aurora comes of age at a garden party. She has a delightfully sensual pas de deux with Leo - these two dancers work really well together - before she pricks her finger on a black rose and falls asleep. The transitional sleepwalking scene is a highlight.

Bourne spins out the story for 2 hours and injects some menace into Aurora’s rites of passage. Leo is bitten by the vampiric Count Lilac, King of the Fairies (Dominic North), which offers him the immortality he needs to be there for his beloved 100 years later. Another innovation is that Caradoc (Paris Fitzpatrick), son of the dark fairy Carabosse (Fitzpatrick), continues the family grudge down the generations and become a rival for Aurora’s affections when she awakes in 2011.

Although Bourne’s take feels a little busy at times, his arresting choreography, the talented company, Lez Brotherston’s exuberant set and costume designs, aided by Paule Constable’s evocative lighting, prove irresistible.

To January 15

Originally published by Islington Tribune