Director: Matthew Bourne
Choreographer: Matthew Bourne
Adapter: Matthew Bourne
Music: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Reviewer: Lauren Humphreys
Considered by many the most audience conscious of artists, credit must undoubtedly go to Matthew Bourne for his groundbreaking work, his originality of vision, and for the popularization of ballet among the masses. Indeed, the packed house at Glasgow’s Theatre Royal is a testament to that.
For this production Sleeping Beauty, Bourne returns to the music of Tchaikovsky to complete his trio of the composer’s ballet masterworks that started in 1992 with Nutcracker!and, most famously, in 1995, with the international hit Swan Lake.
Charles Perrault’s timeless fairy tale, about a young girl cursed to sleep for 100 years, was turned into a legendary ballet by Tchaikovsky and choreographer Marius Petipa in 1890. Bourne takes this date as his starting point, setting the Christening of Aurora, the story’s heroine, in the year of the ballet’s first performance; the height of the Fin-de-Siècle period when fairies, vampires and decadence fed the gothic imagination. Here, the traditional tale of good versus evil is turned on its head to create a supernaturally tinged, time-travelling love story.
The tone is set even before the curtain rises: the vine-covered title superimposed on the curtain, takes us instantly to the pages of a Grimm’s fairy tale. The music starts and the legend Once upon a time… appears to chuckles of recognition from the audience. We are then taken on a mesmerising journey in this Gothic re-telling of the familiar tale.
Visually stunning, even more so than Bourne’s previous works, this is ballet as you want it to be – the sets and costumes in themselves evoking an emotional response from the audience, the beautiful, familiar music of Tchaikovsky, the perfect fairy-tale score. The choreography too is innovative, unlike traditional ballet companies, Bourne never feels constrained to stick to one particular style. Instead, each scene is imbued with a unique character and appropriate movement vocabulary. And to Bourne’s credit there is never an indulgent moment, every step sharply drives the plot.
This is a picture book perfect re-telling of the tale – full of visual delights and gasp-inducing moments. Each member of this company is as talented and captivating as the other. New Adventures are the best of the best, and this is a production not to be missed. Sheer theatrical perfection.
Runs until 21 November 2015 | Image: Simon Annand