SLEEPING BEAUTY: Music Tchaikovsky, choreographed by Matthew Bourne
Birmingham Hippodrome till 09 02 13
Review: Alexander Ray Edser, 10 02 13, Birmingham Hippodrome
Unique and thrilling dance.
Matthew Bourne has become something of a phenomenon. The huge Hippodrome theatre completely sold out for the visit of Bourne’s new work – SLEEPING BEAUTY. And if he has become a phenomenon – then he deserves it. This is marvellous storytelling through the medium of dance.
SLEEPING BEAUTY completes Bourne’s trilogy of Tchaikovsky ballets. And it becomes increasingly clear that in Bourne’s work the dance serves the story. Not that the dance plays second fiddle, it most certainly does not. It’s just that you always feel the story comes first. Bourne has had to work quite hard with this tale but he’s succeeded. The story begins just before the end of the 19th Century and ends in the present. That he sets his story against a real time-frame gives rise to rich creativity.
The supernatural figures in this ballet are a cross between faery and vampire – striking figures with dark shadowed eyes. The Princess is indeed incarcerated to sleep for a hundred hears (a thrilling moment as she enters huge castle gates); but her lover is encouraged to follow her. He cannot enter and is ‘captured’ by one of the faeries and bitten – on the neck of course. Intriguing and dark.
We are forced to reconsider, though, as the Princess wakes (in present day.) Her lover is there – the vampire-like bite was an act of mercy . . . His life is preserved to preserve the love. Nothing, it would seem, is black and white.
The two clearly defined (and by us, understood) periods enable Bourne and his company to demonstrate great skill in dance styles. Bourne shifts the more classically based early style to a more open and angular one in the second half.
In the second half, too, is greater passion. Particularly from the lovers and from the leading faeries. But this is true ensemble. We must have eyes everywhere in the performance space, because wherever we look, there is magic going on.
Dark magic or light magic is neither here nor there. True magic.