Music: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Director and choreographer: Matthew Bourne
Reviewer: Maggie Constable
It is the time of year when Matthew Bourne’s company awakens us from our winter hibernation for his latest show at Milton Keynes Theatre. Always much anticipated, his company treats us this time to his fabulous (in both senses) new production of Sleeping Beauty, A Gothic Romance. No one could sleep through this.
The story of the curse cast on the lovely Princess Aurora is well known but this version has a gothic and supernatural touch. Bourne’s unique style is much aided by Lez Brotherston’s evocative sets and gorgeous costumes. We are swept from the glorious Edwardian times to the present day, beginning in the 1890s,the date when Marius Petipa’s original ballet was written. In Bourne’s re-imagining, the infamous Carabosse has become a sorceress who has ‘given’ the childless royal couple a baby but who has not been shown gratitude by the King and hence seeks revenge. Aurora is a willful infant as witnessed by her stunts as a baby crawling up curtains, spitting, hitting servants in the face and being a very naughty tot in general – all beautifully rendered by a puppet in a wonderfully clever and realistic touch. She is an equally wild teenager and as her coming of age approaches she falls in love with Leo, the gamekeeper, who she meets secretly. However, she is also attracted to Caradoc, Carabosse’s handsome and seductive son, an evil being who ensures that the Carabosse curse takes effect thus sending Aurora to sleep for 100 years. King of the Fairies, Count Lilac, is on hand however and a century later…
In the role of Princess Aurora is Ashley Shaw who moves effortlessly between gentle lyricism, childlike leaps and passionate movements in her very sensual second scene duet with Leo. She radiates with her smile as the young ingénue and shows real flair in her character acting throughout. An excellent Aurora.
Dominic North’s performance as the loyal and most determined Leo is utterly believable, often funny and very moving in the last two acts where he shows his power and skill as a dancer
Caradoc and Carabosse are brought to us by Tom Clark who does menacing to a tee. He struts around the stage as the malign and louche Caradocbut really comes into his own in the fourth and final act. He is frighteningly convincing at this point and what a departure, but no spoilers here.
Christopher Marney as Count Lilac gives us style and a peppering of mystery, adding even more magic to the piece. He is a slick and agile mover with very expressive face and body movements.
The company members perform a whole range of roles, including puppeteers, with perfection. They deliver some challenging Bourne choreography with attention to every detail. The hand and feet gestures are so well expressed.
The ‘Last Night’ is an amazing act in a blaze of red hues contrasted with blue lighting. Indeed, Paule Constable’s lighting needs special mention, so much does it add the overall sumptuous ambiance. The whole is an enthralling production which is certainly worth re-visiting. You will be reawakened.
Runs until30 January 2016 | Image: Johan Persson