Ten years on from its debut, Matthew Bourne’s gothic ballet rendition of the Sleeping Beauty story has lost none of its dreamy qualities.
The titular beauty, played on opening night at Norwich Theatre Royal by Cordelia Braithwaite, only really sleeps off-stage in this reimagined story, which sees the King and Queen given a daughter by the Dark Fairy Carabosse (Paris Fitzpatrick).
Despite the gift, the couple’s ungrateful behaviour leads to a curse – the long sleep we know so well – enforced by Carabosse’s son Caradoc (also Fitzpatrick) and mediated only by the intervention of the King of the Fairies (Dominic North).
In this version though, for fairy read vampire, as Princess Aurora’s love interest Leo (Stephen Murray) takes a rather drastic decision to survive the century of slumber, joining the undead and sleeping in a tent outside the abandoned palace. That timelapse is neatly wedged in the interval.
There is plenty of humour in the piece, particularly in the from of young Aurora who is represented by a playful and mischievous puppet baby, animated by the company. The rod and arm puppet scampers around escaping the royal servants, and reacts to a dance show by the good fairies, earning plenty of chuckles from the audience.
There is even more delight in the dance. Braithwaite is perfectly cast, with a naïve charm and beautiful line as she playfully flirts with Murray. Their post-tennis party seduction over a garden bench, complete with lovers tiff, is a gorgeous piece of choreography. That earlier party gives the corps plentiful opportunities to showcase their skills, with Bourne’s typical mix of story and shape.
The design and choreography appears largely unchanged from the 2012 original production, and uses the same arrangement of the Tchaikovsky score. Both have aged well, from the imposing palace to the mysterious woodland setting, and some nice visual jokes interweaved with the music.
Bourne has a reputation for spectacle and this show does not disappoint, with added heart and humour to enjoy too.
- Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty: A Gothic Romance continues at Norwich Theatre Royal until Saturday, April 8, 2023, then Newcastle, Edinburgh, and Amsterdam.