Matthew Bourne’s SLEEPING BEAUTY
To 13 February 2016
Runs: 2h 15m, one interval
Tickets: 0844 338 5000
Review: Alexander Ray Edser, 09 02 16
A terrific Sleeping Beauty from the Twilight Zone
Matthew Bourne continues to create spellbinding productions and his company plays to packed houses. What’s his secret of success? – It lies in a number of things . . . He’s a superb storyteller for a start, often telling the story through physical objects – a blank-faced dummy, a blindfold – that add clarity, drama, and open up dance possibilities. Then, crucially, there’s his sure hand of casing wonderful dancers who can truly act. Bourne has raised the level of acting in dance (acting through dance?) to a higher and thrilling level.
Bourne describes this version of the tale as Gothic, and it is; it’s centred in a castle which is all darkness and light, thunder and lightening. Yet he sets it, in the main, in the Edwardian period and today. He thinks everything through, adding marvellous reinventions. The fairies become more like the faeries of the Old Time, neither good nor bad, but you’d certainly not want to cross them; these are creatures of the elements deep rooted in our myths, part faerie, part angel, part vampire. There is no Prince, but the Princess falls in love with a gamekeeper; Bourne adds levels to his dance-play, by interweaving class, privilege, prejudice, the outsider, the drive of sexuality.
No wonder a show like this takes your breath away in its scope.
Not quite all smooth sailing though; the narrative drive falls away somewhat in the sequence following the re-opening of the castle gates.
Splendid dancing throughout. Adam Maskell makes a strong and frightening Dark Fairy and her Son (he plays both). Christopher Marney mixes authority and tenderness as the King of the Fairies – the final moments of the first half, he and the Gamekeeper are incredibly moving. Ashley Shaw creates a carefully drawn journey from witty naughtiness to love and passion as Aurora, and Dominic North is vulnerable and passionate as The Gamekeeper.
Shaw’s and North’s duet, leading towards the end of the first half is a huge dramatic highspot; underpinned by love and passion it is visceral in it’s effect, blossoming into a celebration of liberty born of illicit love and ratcheting up the drama at the same time. A dance you would happily watch a second time over.
King Benedict: Chris Trenfield
Queen Eleanor: Nicole Kabera
Princess Aurora: Ashley Shaw
Leo, the Royal Gamekeeper: Dominic North
Count Lilac: King of the Fairies: Christopher Marney
Carabosse, The Dark Fairy / Caradoc, her Son: Adam Maskell