Sleeping Beauty is the third in the trilogy of Tchaikovsky’s ballets from Matthew Bourne following on from the hugely successful Nutcracker and Swan Lake, and like the those before, he has again surpassed himself with this ballet.
In this version, the well know story opens with the immortal words “Once Upon a time there was a King and Queen who had not been blessed with a child”. The ballet, set in 1890, then goes on to show the royal couple, danced by Edwin Ray and Kerry Biggin approaching the dark fairy Carabosse - wonderfully portrayed by Adam Maskell - for help. Their quest is rewarded and they are blessed with a daughter. the Princess Aurora. Aurora is spectacularly danced by Hannah Vassallo, who gives a superb performance throughout, earning the standing ovation she receives. Bourne has also introduced a wonderful puppet version of the baby princess, who is so lifelike that you almost forget it is a puppet.
There are some lovely solos from the fairy godparents (Liam Mower, Mari Kamata, Kate Lyons, Joe Walkling, Ashley Shaw and Tom Jackson Greaves, all so different, and showcasing their magnificent dancing. Then Carabosse returns to cast the traditional curse upon the baby..
Time passes and Princess Aurora comes of age. It is now 1911 and the Edwardian era. We see the princess who is portrayed as something of a wild child, receiving her suitors at an afternoon garden party. Amongst the suitors are Caradoc, son of Carabosse who is by now dead, but her bitterness has also passed on to her son. Caradoc is also wonderfully danced by Adam Maskell. We are also introduced to Leo, the Royal Gamekeeper, (Dominic North). These two represent the good and evil of the traditional struggle, and Aurora seems to be torn between them. Aurora pricks her finger on a rose thorn and falls into a 100 year sleep….
Matthew Bourne’s direction and choreography throughout this ballet is outstanding. He has such a sure touch and brings his ballets alive with a whole new meaning. The set and costumes, designed by Lez Brotherston are spectacular and stunningly enhanced by Paule Constable’s lighting design.
The dancing is of course absolutely brilliant without exception, and the energy and exuberance from the dancers’ spills out to the audience – how I wish I could dance just a little bit like that! The talent amongst the whole company is outstanding.
Tchaikovsky’s music is sublime, played so sensitively and blending with the dance, to make a beautifully rounded production. My only criticism would be that it would have been nice to have had the orchestra live rather than pre-recorded.
This is a wonderful evening’s entertainment. I would recommend everyone to go and see it but I think you may have to wait for it to be released on DVD as I’m sure it will be. Tickets for the live performance are almost impossible to get such is its popularity.