Dance Review: Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty – ‘powerful and exciting’

Photo: Ashley Shaw and Adam Maskell in Sleeping Beauty.© Foteini Christofilopoulou.

Photo: Ashley Shaw and Adam Maskell in Sleeping Beauty.© Foteini Christofilopoulou.

Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty is a fairy tale love story given a Gothic vampire twist. This is the third adaptation of Tchaikovsky’s classic ballet scores, following Swan Lake (which shocked some with its male swans) and The Nutcracker, both critically acclaimed and hugely influential in the dance scene.

The young princess Aurora is delightfully played in her teens by Ashley Shaw and is in love with the palace gamekeeper Leo (a perfect match in Dominic North). But she falls under the spell of Carabosse, the sorceress who had made her very existence possible but without reward, thus hellbent for revenge.

It is the vengeful son Caradoc who causes the real damage and the 100-year sleep for the princess leaves Leo craving immortality. And that is, of course, where the demonic vampires come in with their dark arts. Lez Brotherton’s Gothic designs are straight out of the eldritch horror of Lovecraft and Poe and hence ensues a battle between good and evil.

Tchaikovsky’s music is used inventively if unconventionally, but what would you expect from dance heretic Bourne? The denouement, for example, takes place in what could be a contemporary S&M club. Throughout the visuals are spectacular and the choreography to die for. There is a frenetic dynamic energy in the movement throughout, though Bourne shows he can have quiet and slow moments too in the love scenes.

A powerful and exciting show that makes you really rethink the myth behind it and the very notion of balletic dance itself.

Reviewed by Rich Jevons at Alhambra Theatre, Bradford, touring nationally, see