15 November 2022
Matthew Bourne is a theatrical alchemist bar none. The skills of creator, director and choreographer are offered up in all their glory in this wonderfully entertaining version of the ballet set to Tchaikovsky’s music.
Subtitled ‘A Gothic Romance’, Bourne takes the original fairy story and adds his own spin on the tale; imbuing the whole with a darkness and sexuality which adds such depth to the narrative. In this, he is assisted no end by the set and costume designs of Lez Brotherston – the master craftsman of the edgy and the stunning. The time travelling story offers up the world of the early 20th Century upper classes and that of the fairies and demons and Brotherston delights in both the conventional and the subversive. The fairy costumes are a particular delight – intricate, full of colour and offering plenty of swoosh! Likewise the palace perched on a distant hill plays with perspective and the use of moving conveyors create new pictures throughout. Bourne and Brotherston have to be the best theatrical double act in existence – masterly.
Atmosphere is created by many elements of the show, not least by Tchaikovsky’s music but Paule Constable’s lighting is so inventive, so artistic – some of the dissolves through the gauze were beyond exquisite – that the whole is nothing without it.
The lush recording of the music is the other backdrop against which the dancers of the New Adventures Company perform and once again, the beauty of Bourne’s choreography is that it can only be categorised as Bournesque – that extraordinary confection of the classical and modern – ‘Arabesque to Stomp’ as I heard it referred to in the most respectful of ways. You never quite know what you are going to see next – there is not a dull moment.
The show begins by setting the scene for what is to come – complete with a ‘puppet’ baby Aurora – astonishingly well manipulated by members of the Company who remain hidden from the audience eye throughout – skilful puppeteers as well as dancers! Here is where Bourne has fun – he has the huge ability to involve through humour as well as drama and here the viewers just laugh and laugh again – utter joy.
Ashley Shaw is the most expressive of dancers; her rebellious Aurora is full of joy and mischief and her ability to ‘become’ a rag doll when sleeping is extraordinary. The Princess is in love with Leo, the Royal Gamekeeper, and Andrew Monaghan matches Shaw perfectly – the are very much of one when together. The dark side is headed up by Paris Fitzpatrick as both Carabosse and her vengeful son, Caradoc; he is a commanding presence as both and dances with a loucheness and an ominousity. The cast is universally excellent; special mentions for the long-standing member of the Company, Dominic North as Count Lilac – a wonderfully invigoriating – and vampiric -performance and might I also mention Cameron Flynn as Bertie the Footman who had so much ‘business’ in Act Two and was impeccable; it just emphasises the importance of acting as well as dancing and New Adventures combine the two perfectly.
The climax of the story thrusts us into modern day and is suddenly very powerful and dramatic; and totally thrilling. Now, I was thinking as the show came to its conclusion that maybe this wasn’t as emotionally involving as some of Bourne’s other works….. and then there is a masterstroke – a coup de théâtre that has the audience gasp as one bringing over it a tidal wave of joyful tears and laughter – I should not have had any doubts.
Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty is mesmeric and joyful, it is exquisitely realised on stage and is a credit to all those involved and to theatre in this country. The audience at Plymouth absolutely lapped it up – privileged to have been offered the chance to see it.
CAST & CREATIVES
KING BENEDICT – DANNY REUBENS
QUEEN ELEANOR – STEPHANIE BILLERS
PRINCESS AURORA – ASHLEY SHAW
LEO – ANDREW MONAGHAN
COUNT LILAC – DOMINIC NORTH
CARABOSSE & CARADOC – PARIS FITZPATRICK
ARDOR – KAYLA COLLYMORE
HIBERNIA – KURUMI KAMAYACHI
AUTUMNUS – CHRISTOPHER THOMAS
FERAL – SHOKO ITO
TANTRUM – ENRIQUE NGBOKOTA
LORD RUPERT – BEN BROWN
VISCOUNT AUBREY – PERREIRA DE JESUS FRANQUE
SIR EVELYN – JAMES LOVELL
MISS MADDOX – SOPHIA HURDLEY
FLOSSIE – JADE COPAS
ARCHIE – JAMES LOVELL
BERTIE – CAMERON FLYNN
CARABOSSE ATTENDANTS – BEN BROWN, PERREIRA DE JESUS FRANQUE
DIRECTOR, CHOREOGRAPHER & SCENARIO – MATTHEW BOURNE
SET & COSTUME DESIGN – LEZ BROTHERSTON
LIGHTING DESIGN – PAULE CONSTABLE
SOUND DESIGN – PAUL GROOTHUIS
MUSIC – PYOTR ILYICH TCHAIKOVSKY
MUSIC RECORDED BY – SLEEPING BEAUTY ORCHESTRA, CONDUCTED BY BRETT MORRIS