With its sumptuous sets, masterly storytelling and superb dance performances, MATTHEW BOURNE’S SLEEPING BEAUTY is a visually spectacular piece worthy of the ticket price.
It’s been 10 years since MATTHEW BOURNE’S SLEEPING BEAUTY first made its premiere at London’s Sadlers Wells Theatre. Enchanting audiences with its sumptuous sets, inventive storyline, and contemporary choreography, the gothic romance became the fastest-selling production in the company’s history and a firm favourite in the New Adventures repertoire… and it’s easy to see why.
Based on the classic fairy tale about a young Princess cursed to sleep for a hundred years, MATTHEW BOURNE’S SLEEPING BEAUTY takes the traditional tale and turns it on its head, delivering a dazzling gothic romance full of magic, fairies, and vampires.
The show opens in 1890, the year of Princess Aurora’s birth. Angered by the lack of gratitude for giving the King and Queen a child, the Dark Fairy Carabosse puts a curse on the child, sentencing her to death when she pricks her finger on a rose, but Aurora’s guardian fairies ensure she only falls into a deep sleep that can be ended with a kiss from her one true love.
The action swiftly moves to 1911 to Aurora’s coming-of-age party, where the princess pricks herself on the poisoned rose, awakening 100 years later in the contemporary world.
As with his other productions, MATTHEW BOURNE’S SLEEPING BEAUTY is a visually spectacular piece. Lez Brotherston’s sumptuous set and costume design, together with Paule Constable’s evocative lighting design, is a pure delight, transporting the audience from the late Edwardian era through to modern day.
The staging in acts three and four are particularly impressive, with the action moving from the dark forest to a modern nightclub for a dance sequence that is unexpected, dazzling, and awe-inspiring. A special mention also must go to the Baby Aurora puppet sequence that lifts the opening scene and embodies the spirit and character of the heroine.
Unlike many other interpretations of SLEEPING BEAUTY, what makes Bourne’s version so successful is its inventive and elaborate plot. Wary of its flimsy narrative, Bourne beefs up the love story and adds dramatic tension with the introduction of a new character – Carabosse’s faithful son, Caradoc. Together, these elements help keep you gripped until the very end.
In terms of dance, MATTHEW BOURNE’S SLEEPING BEAUTY is a radical departure from Petipa’s classical ballet but still pays homage to the original with its inventive dance moves. The vampire fairies particularly dazzle in their ragged tutus and velvet tailcoats as they glide serenely across the stage on an ingenious travelator whose machinery is hidden by puffs of smoke. As mentioned before, the wedding sequence, which takes place in a modern nightclub, is equally spectacular with its neo-expressionistic choreography.
In the lead role of Aurora, Ashley Shaw is simply captivating, demonstrating the character’s youthful cheekiness and puppyish spontaneity with her frantic dance moves and impressive characterisation. Her chemistry with Andrew Monaghan, who is excellent in the role of Leo, is natural and believable, and together, the pair bring the love story to life, pushing the narrative forward.
Other standout performances come from Paris Fitzpatrick as the evil Dark Fairy Carabosse and her son Caradoc, who dominates the stage, looming elegantly and sinisterly over his prey. Dominic North also impresses as Count Lilac, King of the Fairies.
The only real disappointment is taped version of Tchaikovsky’s unforgettable score, which deserves to be played live. That said, this doesn’t detract from the overall experience, which entertains, exhilarates and enthrals the audience from start to finish.
With its sumptuous sets, masterly storytelling and superb dance performances, MATTHEW BOURNE’S SLEEPING BEAUTY is a dream production by the New Adventures team. Don’t miss it!
Donna is the Founder and Editor of Frankly, My Dear UK. By day, she works as a digital marketing specialist, by night she reviews film, theatre and music for a wide range of publications including WhatsonStage and The Reviews Hub. Loves Formula 1, prosecco and life.