Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty

Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty, Sadler’s Wells, 4th Dec 2012 – 26th Jan 2013.

Matthew Bourne is without a doubt the most exciting choreographer in the world of ballet right now. He turned Edward Scissorhands into a ballet, and he famously rewrote Swan Lake with a male Odette/Odile and corps de ballet, creating a gay love story.

His latest production is Sleeping Beauty and, as always, he truly made it his own. He gave it a gothic fairytale spin. This is going to sound weird, but it involved vampire fairies. They had the most amazing costumes, with brocade tails that flipped around them as they danced. The best dancer in my opinion was Count Lilac (Christopher Marney), who danced beautifully, especially in his duet with Aurora (Hannah Vassallo). Bourne always writes strong roles for the male dancers, which makes a nice change from the traditional ballerina.

The main rewrite of the storyline was the introduction of the evil fairy’s son, Caradoc. When she dies, he decides to avenge her and make sure her plan to kill Aurora comes to light (by waiting until she awakes from the 100 year sleep and then killing her – apparently killing her in her sleep isn’t an option.) Caradoc was amazing. The dancer (Ben Bunce) had a huge, imposing presence. His every move had dark intentions. And his duets with Aurora were beautiful, displaying the contrast between his sharp, forceful nature, and her innocent spirit. The duet whilst she was asleep was particularly good, as she danced in a ragdoll, Coppelia-like fashion.

Ben Bunce as Caradoc and Hannah Vassallo as Aurora

The evil son’s red court was one of my favourite bits. Throughout the ballet, it was clear that Bourne was mixing various styles of dance, and this bit appeared to be inspired by Latin dancing. The choreography was very unusual, and innovative. Not like anything I’d ever seen before, and that was the point. This part of the ballet was set in modern day, when fairies were shunned from society (as most people no longer believe in them), so the choreography reflected their strange, far-removed lives.

The first act showed Aurora as a baby, which involved some puppetry. It was very well done, but I am not a fan of puppets and found it all a little creepy. My only real complaint was that there was no pointe work. None. In the whole ballet. It was very much contemporary dance mixed with ballet. It was beautiful, but the dancing lost some of its wow factor without any pointe. Also, although some of the choreography was amazing, other bits felt a little lacking and unimpressive.

Christopher Marney as Count Lilac with the other fairies

Overall, it was a beautiful, captivating ballet. Bourne has tried very hard to make his production accessible, straying from traditional ballet and creating something more modern. For those of us who enjoy the traditional stuff though, it might be nice if he kept some more of it. He definitely creates a space for male dancers to shine though, putting them into the spotlight, rather than in the shadow of the prima ballerina. And it was certainly a visual treat: both the set and costumes by Lez Brotherston were amazing. Criticisms aside, I loved it. And if you’ve never seen ballet, or you’re not convinced you’d like it, this is definitely the place to start.

Lots of Razz love, Katy. xxx.

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