Director and Choreographer: Matthew Bourne
Reviewer: Abbie Rippon
New Adventures are back with a bang with their 2015 revival of their gothic romance Sleeping Beauty. Audience members will be well aware of the classic tale of magical fairies, a beautiful young princess and her prince charming, but Bourne puts a darker, more sinister twist on the classic tale playing on the recent trend for gothic horror in contemporary art and literature.
Bourne is hailed as the nation’s most popular choreographer. He launched New Directions in 2002 with his iconic productions of Play Without Words and Nutcracker! and has developed an international renown for his innovative and eye catching productions.
Sitting in the audience of Sleeping Beauty it is abundantly clear why his work is so successful. The production is accessible without being simplified. On the contrary, Bourne doesn’t go easy on his audience, he fills their evening with a full on production. What makes it accessible is the way that the story is told. The characters are beautifully crafted, there is humour, shock and romance. One can watch any dancer and know their characters thoughts and feelings; you could watch this production every night for a week and see something different, which is part of why Bourne’s audiences keep coming back for more. Once you have seen a New Adventure’s production, you become a fan for life.
Initially set in a manor house in the late Victorian and Edwardian periods, Princess Aurora’s coming of age is celebrated with a picnic and lawn games, rather than the traditional ball of tales of old. This birthday celebration lends itself to some enchanting staging and choreography. The ensemble of talented dancers are excellent, each one completely in tune with the others. Ashley Shaw is a real standout as Princess Aurora. She perfectly embodies the carefree persona of the princess and her duet with Chris Trentfield as Leo, her sweetheart, is absolutely mesmerising. The pair work beautifully in sync with each other and the fearlessness and trust she has in him through some rather challenging jumps and lifts makes the audience truly believe in the heartfelt nature of their relationship.
After Aurora falls asleep, time passes for over a hundred years before her true love can awaken her and the scene shifts to modern day. The gothic magic in the piece makes this time lapse work and with a little fairy vampirism, Leo is able to say young through the decades, to wake her with a kiss. The dream section in act three where Leo tries to find the sleeping Aurora is spell binding.
Designer Lez Brotherston has filled the stage with lantern lit silver birches as a cast dressed in white sleepwear try to distract our hero as he tries to hind his princess. The design throughout is exceptional; stand-out costumes are those of the fairies who wear a supernatural form of Victorian fashion, with wings to match.
This is another superb production by Matthew Bourne. If you can’t catch it you are missing out on a spellbinding evening. This is one of those productions where you don’t notice the time passing. It’s only fault is that it ends too soon, you could sit and watch it all night.
Runs until Saturday 28th October 2015 | Photo: Simon Annand