Review: Matthew Bournes Sleeping Beauty at Newcastle Theatre Royal
Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty: A Modern Take on a Classic Tale that allows the non ballet fan an opportunity to experience something different.
Matthew Bourne is a British choreographer and director who is best known for his work in contemporary ballet. He is the founder and artistic director of New Adventures, a dance company that has produced a number of critically acclaimed productions, including Swan Lake, The Car Man, and The Nutcracker.
In 1992, Bourne premiered his production of Sleeping Beauty at the Sadler’s Wells Theatre in London. Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty is a modern take on the classic ballet, set in the late 19th century and featuring vampires and has been revived for this current tour.
Bourne is known for his innovative and challenging work, which often challenges traditional ballet conventions. Admittedly I am not a huge ballet fan, maybe age brings appreciation but four years isn’t that long from my first three experiences of the genre. I then found a middle ground when I saw Les Ballet Trocadero in London and again in Newcastle, who I found made ballet accessible for those like me by making it humorous. By now if you’ve been to the theatre enough or seen a some ballet you will know Bourne’s name and be aware he is not conventional, and it’s for this reason I was curious, intrigued and drawn back to try it again.
The show is a Gothic fairy tale that combines Tchaikovsky’s music with a storyline that progresses from the traditional ballet style to more contemporary forms of dance. The production, which is a blend of dance and theatre, is a feast for the senses that packs in Bourne’s favorite elements, including a fairy-tale twist, period details, farce and comedy of manners, visual humor, and extravagantly witty designs.
In this reimagined version of the classic story, Princess Aurora has already met her beloved, the royal gamekeeper Leo, when she falls into her 100-year sleep. In order to keep their love story going and keep Leo alive for a century, Bourne takes an unexpected turn and makes him a vampire, courtesy of a bite from Count Lilac, a benevolent vampire fairy king. We are taken through a timeline via four acts starting in 1890, when we see sleeping beauty as a beautiful baby with personality beautifully acted out with puppetry, onwards to 1911 when our Beauty comes of Age and a drop into her 100 year sleep. Times passes as the audience use this time to enjoy the interval. On return we are brought into the 21st Century and 2011 in particular, then to the last act only yesterday.
The sets and costumes were designed by Lez Brotherston, who also worked with Bourne on his productions of “Swan Lake” and “The Car Man.” The designs are rich and detailed, with a colour palette that shifts from muted and somber to vivid and bold. The set design is intricate and visually appealing, and it is complemented by the clever use of lighting and layering of the stage that adds depth and texture to the performance.
The choreography in Sleeping Beauty progresses from the conventionally balletic to more contemporary idioms, and the result is a seamless blend of dance styles that are both beautiful and exciting to watch. The dancers move effortlessly from classical ballet to contemporary dance, and their performances are filled with energy and passion.
Katrina Lyndon and Stephen Murray deliver delightful performances as Princess Aurora and Leo, respectively. Jackson Fisch is wonderfully creepy as both Carabosse, the vampire fairy, and Caradoc, Leo’s love rival.
One of the standout sequences in the show is the “Vampire Waltz,” which takes place in the second act. This hauntingly beautiful scene features the ensemble of vampires and their human victims in a swirling, romantic dance. The choreography here is mesmerising, with the dancers moving in unison to create a sense of unity and fluidity.
Another notable moment in the show is the “Awakening” sequence, where the titular Sleeping Beauty, Princess Aurora, is brought back to life by the kiss of her true love. The choreography here is celebratory and joyful, with the dancers performing lifts and jumps that express the exuberance of the moment.
Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty is a thrilling and enchanting production that combines the beauty of classical ballet with the excitement of contemporary dance. The show is a Gothic twist on the original fairy tale that packs in all of Bourne’s favorite elements, including period details and witty designs. The staging is spectacular, and the dancers are mesmerising as they bring the story to life in a way that is both engaging and entertaining.
Cast members change each performance as well, so this set won’t be the same as you see any other performance which helps also being a unique experience to each that see it.
Matthew Bourne has revived this piece and brought it to audiences old and new, and maybe even converted a few people to the genre along the way.
The show was pretty much sold out before arriving but you may grab a return ticket if you are lucky!
Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty plays Newcastle Theatre Royal until Sat 29 Apr 2023. Tickets are priced from £20.00 and can be purchased at www.theatreroyal.co.uk or from the Theatre Royal Box Office on 0191 232 7010.
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