How do you deal with a story where the key action is the heroine sleeping for 100 years? If you’re Matthew Bourne, you shove the slumber in the interval and sex up the narrative with vampire fairies.
For his brash reimagining of Sleeping Beauty, Bourne has crossed the traditional fairytale with vampire drama True Blood for an eye-ravishing and (slightly confusing) tale of love, lust and loss.
The production’s filmic texture begins with a set of inter-titles reminiscent of a black and white flick, as the scene is set in an occasionally forced first act, with dancers competing with a puppet baby for the audience’s attention.
That gives way to a perfectly-executed second act where we are fast-forwarded to Beauty’s coming of age.
From the moment she appears Hannah Vassallo dazzles in the lead; as great an actress as a dancer she navigates the piece brilliantly.
Bourne knows how to do seduction, and Beauty’s girlish affection for the gamekeeper (Dominic North) unfolds with exceptional charm and in sharp contrast to the deceitful advances of Caradoc (Adam Maskell). Both men are fittingly talented partners.
Beauty’s awakening (aided by Christopher Marney’s king of the fairies) is enchanting, set in a woodland paradise beset with nymphs. It is here we see some of the best all cast work.
The final scene – supposedly set yesterday but resembling more 1980s Hollywood’s idea of a cool nightclub – doesn’t quite come off, but the finale definitely delighted the first night’s full house.
Bourne always delivers a visual feast and Beauty is no exception, even if the story is a little less than dreamy.