Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty, Sadler’s Wells, review: ‘Doesn’t disappoint’

Ashley Shaw (Aurora) and Adam Maskell (Caradoc) in Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty. Picture: Johan

Ashley Shaw (Aurora) and Adam Maskell (Caradoc) in Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty. Picture: Johan Persson - Credit: Archant

Although Tchaikovsky’s stunning score isn’t done justice, the rest of this Christmas spectacular follows in Bourne’s fine tradition, says Sam Lewis.

It wouldn’t be Christmas without a trip to the theatre to see a Matthew Bourne ballet. His works have become as central to the festive period as tinsel, turkey and mince pies, with Sadler’s Wells playing host to his adaptation of Edward Scissorhands and much-lauded Swan Lake in recent years. But this December it was the turn of Bourne’s re-imagining of Charles Perrault’s classic fairy tale, Sleeping Beauty.

In many respects the narrative stays true to the original – Princess Aurora falls under a wicked spell, causing her to slip into a century-long sleep only to be awoken by a kiss from her prince. However, the tale has been given the full Bourne treatment and there are one or two things you won’t remember from bedtime stories. Most startlingly, Bourne turns the traditional tale into a gothic romance and laces it with vampiric elements, including a fanged version of the Lilac Fairy and the introduction of a Dracula-esque Cardoc, the evil son of Carabosse.

A frighteningly realistic puppet baby Aurora is the star of Act One, causing the audience to laugh within the first few minutes as the little scamp scuttles up the curtains and generally creates mayhem. Another stand-out scene comes when the story fast-forwards and Ashley Shaw plays a grown-up Aurora. Shaw is joyous and radiates the glow of a young woman in love as she dances effortlessly alongside her childhood sweetheart, Leo the palace gardener.

If there is fault to be found with Bourne’s normally flawless production, it is a shame not to see a live orchestra. While the pre-recorded soundtrack suffices, the theatre’s sound system cannot possibly do Tchaikovsky’s stunning score the justice it so rightly deserves.

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That said, overall the show does not disappoint and the audience leave with their thirsts satisfied.

Rating: 3/5 stars

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