BalletReviewSouth West

Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty, Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff

Director and Choreographer: Matthew Bourne
Composer: Pyotr Tchaikovsky
Reviewer: Beth Steer

Deconstructing, dissecting and reassembling an amalgamation of all previous versions of Sleeping Beauty – from Disney to the Brothers Grimm to Tchaikovsky’s original score, Matthew Bourne’s reimagining of the classic fairytale is truly a masterpiece to behold.

In this fantastic adaptation, spliced with sinister darkness and dripping with indulgent gothic decadence, Bourne creates a narrative for history’s most famous sleeping princess that blows any existing preconceptions – about fairy tales, Sleeping Beauty, and the ballet itself – out of the water.

Divided into four time periods; Aurora’s birth in 1809, her 21st birthday in 1911, 100 years on in 2011 and ‘last night’ for the final scene, the performance tracks the evolution of the fairy tale across the ages, from Victorian to Edwardian to the present day, bringing each era brilliantly to life with breathtakingly clever staging and set design, witty choreography and daringly inventive costume.

As Aurora, Ashley Shaw is anything but slumbering, passive figure of the traditional tale – she is very much awake, bold in her reimagining of the timeless princess and flawless in her dancing. Even throughout her ‘sleeping’ scenes, Shaw portrays sleep with a brilliant sense of life.

As Leo, Aurora’s long-standing childhood sweetheart, Chris Trenfield is incredible, too. The sheer strength required to execute such complex routines and lifts so tirelessly and gracefully is almost unimaginable.

The baddies, too, are superbly talented – Adam Maskell as Carabosse carries off a perfect mix of pure evil and tantalising mystery while also playing a new character, Carabosse’s son, Caradoc, throughout. In both portrayals, Maskell is seductive, brooding and thrillingly terrifying.

The reimagined fairies are a real highlight, cleverly incorporating their characteristics into both their costume and dance and creating a real otherworldly presence – particularly in the case of Liam Mower as Count Lilac, King of the Fairies. The production and performance simply could not be better.

From the incredible props – baby Aurora as a puppet is ingenious – to the breathtaking staging, the atmospheric lighting and fantastic set design, the creative creates something genuinely magical, and the entire performance is knitted and locked together more tightly than the golden gates that imprison Aurora for 100 years.

Tchaikovsky’s score is incredible, and the performance brings it to life with humour, sass and wit.While undeniably beautiful, Bourne’s production of Sleeping Beauty is not short on plenty of dark, twisty moments and shocking surprises. Sleeping Beauty as presented here has a lot more ‘bite’ than you could ever imagine.

Runs until 30 April 2016 | Image: Johan Persson

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