Not being known for holding back from a Challenge, in 2012 renowned choreographer Sir Matthew Bourne (knighted in the 2016 New Year Honours for services to dance) produced the third of his Tchaikovsky ballets, the epic romance Sleeping Beauty. Come forward to 2016 and once again this show is available for all to see as it tours the UK with a new cast. I was very fortunate to be able to see the show last night at the New Wimbledon Theatre.
The show opens in 1890 with a crescendo of noise as Carabosse (Adam Maskell) the dark fairy provides King Benedict (Chris Trenfield) and Queen Eleanor (Nicole Kabera) with the one thing they cannot have, a baby daughter, the lovely Princess Aurora. Carabosse is angered as she does not receive the recognition she feels she deserves for providing a daughter and vows revenge on the King and his family. The princess knows nothing of this and instead, sleeps soundly under the watchful protection of her devoted nanny, Miss Maddox (Daisy May Kemp) and the rest of the staff who adore the playful and mischievous child. Also looking after Aurora are a group of good fairies – Ardor the fairy of passion (Mari Kamata); Hiberna the fairy of rebirth (Cordelia Braithwaite); Autumnus the fairy of plenty (Jack Jones); Feral the fairy of spirit (Katrina Lyndon) and Tantrum the fairy of temperament (Andrew Monaghan – under their King, Count Lilac (Liam Mower).
The action moves on to 1911 and Aurora (Ashley Shaw) is getting ready for her Coming of Age party. As she sits in her bedroom, her thoughts dwell not on which nobleman she is going to meet today but on the Royal Gamekeeper, Leo (Dominic North) with who she is in love. Leo grows jealous as he asses Aurora dancing with high born gentlemen but the two of them are reconciled and it looks like their love will survive when a stranger enters the garden. This is none other than Caradoc (Adam Maskell) only son of the now dead Carabosse who has vowed to see his mother gets the revenge she sought from the royal family. Will Caradoc succeed in his quest or will Leo and his love for Aurora overcome every obstacle, even death itself, to enable the two lovers to be together forever?
Regular readers will know that I am pretty keen on the work of Matthew Bourne and his New Adventures company, so Sleeping Beauty would have had to be a major disaster for me not to have liked it. Thankfully the team didn’t attempt this and I can say, with a massive smile on my face that the show is an absolute triumph – possibly even my new favourite of his works. Lez Brotherston’s sets and costumes design are breathtaking in their sense of gothic beauty and their relevance to the era in which the action is occurring – covering a period from 1890 right through to Last Night – and really add to the story that is being told. Special mention here to Baby Aurora, a set of fantastic puppets that pretty much steal the opening scene – the only shame was that she wasn’t there for the curtain call. There is so much to see in the costumes, including the fact that each of the fairies has different wings – all based on the actual wings of different species of birds and the wonderful costumes for Caradoc who dominates the stage from his first entrance.
The cast may vary from those listed above when you see the show but, having seen this company perform before, it won’t make a difference as all of the dancers are superb and work amazingly well together. I’ve said before that dance is a matter of trust between the performers and this version of Sleeping Beauty demonstrates that in fine style as Aurora launches herself at Leo as he stands at the front of the stage ready to catch her – quite breathtaking. As always with Matthew’s work, it is important to keep an eye on everything and everyone as he is the master of setting an incident up in the background and then bringing it sharply into focus. My one negative about this production was the sound. I’m not sure if it was the theatre or the recording itself but the sound quality wasn’t consistent the whole way through which is a shame as Tchaikovsky’s score is wonderful to listen to – even if some liberties have been taken with the order of the pieces.
Overall, Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty is everything you would expect from the master choreographer. It takes a traditional tale and plays with it, ensuring that there is no complacency amongst the audience familiar with other versions. The staging is superb and the dancing divine. All in all, this in awesome night that, whatever your feelings about modern dance, will entertain and enthrall you from start to finish.
Review by Terry Eastham
Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty
A Gothic Romance
Music by Tchaikovsky
Matthew Bourne’s dazzling production of Sleeping Beauty has won the hearts of thousands and smashed box office records across the UK and the USA since its premiere.
New Adventures have revived this new classic in the repertoire to give audiences one more chance to see the final piece in the trio of Tchaikovsky masterpieces. If you loved Nutcracker! and the famous Swan Lake with a menacing all-male ensemble, this production will become another firm favourite.
With sumptuous sets and costumes, evocative lighting and masterly storytelling you will be transported in time from the halcyon days of the late Edwardian era through to the modern day. In a world full of magic, fairies, vampires, love and romance, all bought to life by our uniquely talented dancers – will Princess Aurora ever find her true love again?
Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty – UK Tour
Booking to Saturday 26th March 2016
New Wimbledon Theatre
Book Tickets for New Wimbledon Theatre