The subtitle A Gothic Romance is added to Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty for a good reason. Vampires anyone? The production cleverly places the Fairies in a context where they can be taken seriously; the evil Carabosse and her court are elemental and grotesque, the good fairies are updated to a vampire court - powerful, somewhat threatening, but stylish and cool. Although the ballet uses the Tchaikovsky score, and follows the familiar events of the story, this is not the Disney version or the plot of the original Petipa production. Like all good retellings of fairy tales, it has been tweaked to give a contemporary vision – and several surprises.
True to the fairy tale, the action takes place over more than a century, beginning in 1890, moving through the Edwardian era and reaching the present day. Full use of this opportunity, with Lez Brotherston’s terrific sets and costume design marking the changing years. The cultural changes of the different eras are mirrored in the choreography and ‘feel’ of the different acts. The 1890 sections use more traditional ballet motifs and costumes, with individual fairies giving character solos. The Edwardian period, with crisp white summer costumes and waltz style dances give way to American Broadway dance styles. Finally, the modern scenes range from comedic tourist selfie snappers to stylish fashionistas dancing in ball scenes that recall Holywood vampire films. Matthew Bourne fully demonstrates his ability for dramatic and clear storytelling, although, for me, the third act somewhat lost clarity and tension.
It seems invidious to reference individual dancers when the New Adventures company rotates parts between performers frequently for each performance. This is a true ensemble, with each dancer inhabiting their individual characters but also working together to great effect - notably in the comedy ‘babysitting’ scenes. But I can’t resist shout-outs to some of the performers on the evening I attended: Cordelia Braithwaite’s performance as the energetic, independently minded Princess Aurora, Rory Macleod (a local Edinburgh boy) whose performance as the lover, Leo certainly made good, Ben Brown as the sinister and charismatic Carabosse/ Caradoc and Paris Fitzpatrick playing the difficult role of Count Lilac with great command. And I can’t resist mentioning the dancers manipulating the puppet of Baby Aurora with scene-stealing liveliness.
This tour marks the 10th anniversary of the original award-winning show and, like the
heroine herself, the years have added no wrinkles.