And so it is with Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty. The bare bones of the story are there: royal couple produce longed-for baby girl; spiteful Carabosse curses the newborn to die by pricking her finger in a thorn; good fairies intervene; Princess Aurora sleeps for 100 years until true love awakens her.
Now for Bourne’s twists on the story, which earn his version the subtitle A Gothic Romance.
The good fairies that bestow blessings on baby Aurora include Tantrum, the Fairy of Temperament (a spirited turn by Enrique Ngbokota), and their King, Count Lilac (Dominic North, commanding) is a vampire.
Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty featuring New Adventures Dancers Kayla Collymore, Shoko Ito, Christopher Thomas, Dominic North, Kurumi Kamayachi and Enrique Ngbokota. Photo: Johan Persson
Count Lilac blunts Carabosse’s curse by biting Aurora’s neck, thereby ensuring that she will never actually die. Instead, after sleeping for the requisite 100 years, she finds eternal happiness with her childhood sweetheart, the Royal Gamekeeper Leo, but not before being kidnapped by Carabosse’s dark and vengeful son Caradoc (pictured top).
With sumptuous sets and costumes and atmospheric lighting by Bourne’s regular collaborators, respectively Lez Brotherston and Paule Constable, Sleeping Beauty is an absolute feast for the eyes.
It’s less of a feast for the ears, though, with Tchaikovsky’s luscious score chopped and changed around and mixed in the recording with loud sound effects such as the storm that heralds Carabosse’s arrival.
It’s also a work of two halves, where the first half, from the introduction of Aurora – the cutest baby puppet you’re ever likely to see crawling around the stage – to her death at the coming-of-age party, is a lot stronger, cohesive and compelling than the second part, where the plot falters, and there’s quite a bit of pointless dancing as the gothic element goes way over the top.
Bourne’s New Adventures company offers engaging performances, to the last person perfect vehicles for Bourne’s quirky approach to both characterisation and choreography. As the lead couple of Aurora and Leo, Ashley Shaw and Andrew Monaghan are fresh and vital, Shaw bringing out the young princess’s rebellious nature in dancing that often touches on the raunchy.
Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty featuring New Adventures Dancers Andrew Monaghan and Ashley Shaw. Photo: Johan Persson
Paris Fitzpatrick takes on the double role of Carabosse and her son Caradoc. His spiteful Carabosse has touches of the evil drag queen; his Caradoc is the perfect dark villain straight out of central casting.
Matthew Bourne has a unique ability seamlessly to blend lyrical and grotesque, sublime and vulgar. Also, trying to discern and identify outward references is always an amusing part of watching Matthew Bourne’s work. His Aurora, for example, does not fall demurely asleep upon pricking her finger, but re-enacts the mad scene that precedes Giselle’s death, and there’s more than a touch of The Stranger from Swan Lake in the Caradoc of Part II of this Sleeping Beauty.
All that said, Matthew Bourne’s gothic take on The Sleeping Beauty adds a spicy and very welcome element to the Christmas dance on offer in London.
|What||Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty review|
|Where||Sadler's Wells, Rosebery Avenue, London, EC1R 4TN | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Angel (underground)|
29 Nov 22 – 15 Jan 23, 19:30 Sat mats at 14:30; Suns at 14:00 & 19:00. Dark 25, 26, 27 Dec. Dur.: 2 hours inc one interval
|Price||£15-£95 (+booking fee)|
|Website||Click here to book|