Matthew Bourne’s award-winning Sleeping Beauty is on an anniversary tour around the UK in celebration of 10 years since its premiere at Sadler’s Wells. The production spent five days at Nottingham’s Theatre Royal, delighting audiences with a gothic take on what is undeniably a well-loved fairy tale. Impact’s Sophie Robinson reviews.
After seeing Bourne’s adaptation of Romeo and Juliet a few years ago, I simply could not wait to experience his reimagining of a tale which I’ve held so closely since childhood. And I was not disappointed in the slightest.
Backdrop of a Tchaikovsky score
A theatrical beginning to the story, shows the evil witch, Carabosse, melodramatically flourishing her black-feathered wings against the backdrop of a Tchaikovsky score. We learn that the year is 1890, when Carabosse helped the King and Queen to have a child. However, a lack of gratitude from the royals incites Carabosse’s desire to take vengeance on their daughter, Aurora, a desire which is later pursued by her own son Caradoc.
The real twist on the original fairy tale is the inclusion of vampires, adding both to the gothic aesthetic and plot of the adaptation. After a jump forward in time to 1911, Aurora is hopelessly in love with a gamekeeper who is mistakenly believed to be guilty for Aurora’s slumber, thus causing his banishment from the kingdom. To explain the gamekeeper’s survival for 100 years until he reawakens Aurora, he is bitten by a vampire in a dramatic ending to Act 1. In some ways, the transformation of the gamekeeper into a vampire makes his love for Aurora all the more real, as he is the one to set the princess free from the curse instead of a prince she does not know.
I had been transported to an ethereal other-world of fairies, vampires and princesses
As someone who grew up a dancer, I am time and time again astonished at the ingenious choreography summoned by Bourne, and the talent of the cast of Sleeping Beauty alike. The deftness and skill of Bourne’s ballet-contemporary fusion really made me believe I had been transported to an ethereal other-world of fairies, vampires and princesses. But what really solidified the talent of the cast was the occasional “Cor, wish I could do that” from the two old ladies sat behind me.
Although Bourne kept the tone beautifully haunting and romantic throughout the production, he did not shy away from including touches of humour here and there. One scene which stands out most occurs near the beginning of the show, where instead of using an inert baby doll to represent the young Aurora, a wonderfully animated puppet is used instead. The puppet is so believable as a real baby, causing chaos and looking around inquisitively, even climbing up a curtain with an unimaginable, but absolutely hilarious, strength.
The performance is one that will stick with me
The evocative set and use of lighting to transform the Theatre Royal into different dramatic settings, from the paradisiacal fairy tale kingdom to a red and black gothic nightclub in the second act, felt so distant and detached from the centre of Nottingham. This performance is one that will stick with me for a while – in terms of the visuals, music and story, I was spellbound the whole way through.
Featured image courtesy of Alex Watkin. Permission to use granted to Impact. No changes were made to this image.
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