WITH the ability to take a story, turn it on its head and deliver a production with more twists and turns than Spaghetti Junction, Sleeping Beauty is Matthew Bourne at his very best.
The choreographer isn’t afraid to push boundaries and his productions have more fusion than a Michelin-starred restaurant.
To celebrate his production company, New Adventure Productions’, 25th anniversary, Bourne chose this fairtytale after a private tour of composer Tchaikovsky’s country retreat.
Based on Perrault’s fairytale about a young girl cursed to sleep for 100 years, the original ballet by Tchaikovsky and choreographer Marius Petipa opened in 1890 and this is where Bourne takes his starting point.
King Benedict (Ken Bunce) and Queen Eleanor (Kerry Biggin) have not been blessed with an heir and seek help from the dark fairy Carabosse.
After their daughter Aurora is born, the couple don’t show the dark fairy enough appreciation and so, at the child’s christening, a spell is cast and once Aurora is of age she will prick her finger and die.
Enter the central force of good, Count Lilac (Liam Mower) who removes the princess’ death sentence and replaces it with sleep — one which will last for 100 years — and Aurora will only be woken from the slumber by a kiss from her one true love.
As Aurora (Ashley Shaw) grows into a young woman, the story moves from the Victorian era to Edwardian times and the princess celebrates her youth in a golden age of long summer afternoons, croquet on the lawn and brand-new dance crazes.
She falls in love, not with a prince, but with gamekeeper Leo (Dominic North).
Although he may not meet the approval of the royal household, neither of the youngsters care — they are meant for each other.
Everyone in the royal household has forgotten about Carabosse’s curse and, although the dark fairy has died, her son Caradoc vows revenge on those who had wronged his mother.
Enter the central force of evil — and what a fantastic villain Tom Jackson Greaves portrays as both mother and son — not only from his facial expressions but through Bourne’s clever choreography.
Once Aurora’s finger is inevitably pricked, she falls into a dramatic deep sleep and the only way possible for Leo to still be alive in 100 years is for him to be transformed into a vampire. This is where Count Lilac works his magic (and teeth) to give the story a Gothic and Twilight-esque twist!
The story moves to 2011 and outside the castle gates where Leo is living in a pop up tent. Fighting his way through the enchanted forest, will our hero prove that good can prevail evil?
Bourne brings a magical and Gothic curve to a story which has been reworked many times, with the love affair between Aurora and Leo more believable than previous versions.
Bourne’s choreography is spellbinding, and the working of baby Aurora positively mesmerising. Along with wonderful costumes, hair and make-up, I could quite happily sit through the show night after night.
Add into the mix Tchaikovsky’s timeless score and for me this is a near-perfect production.
Here’s to the next 25 years of sheer genius from the talented Mr Bourne.
Caught live at Nottingham Theatre Royal, April 2013