Magazine article Variety

Sleeping Beauty

Magazine article Variety

Sleeping Beauty

Article excerpt


Sleeping Beauty

Sadler's Wells Theater; 1.500 seals; £60 ($97) top

All the staples are here: Tchaikovsky, the newborn princess, the revenge of the uninvited guest, the 100-year sleep, the vampires ... Wait a minute, vampires? Matthew Bourne, who won Tonys for putting viciousness and sexual threat into (male) swans in "Swan Lake," has reinvented "Sleeping Beauty." Initially, Lez Brotherston's grand, gothic design outdoes the drama, but Bourne's more dynamic and dangerous second half creates dance for the "Twilight" generation.

Evidence of Bourne's trademark theatricality is immediately apparent in the opening section. In his new scenario, baby princess Aurora is now a late-Victorian doll puppet manipulated by unseen dancers to nicely comic effect. She's visited by unusually vigorous fairies who endow her not with traditional sweetness and light, but with temper and rebelliousness. And with thunderclaps heralding the machinations of wicked Carabosse (Ben Bunce) added to the taped and smartly trimmed symphonic score, there's increased tension.

Thus by the time she's 16, Aurora (Ashley Shaw) is less of a standard-issue princess and more a skittish young rebel chafing at the constraints put upon her by repressive parents in a gilded Edwardian palace. Her yearning for a barefoot, carefree life is further underlined by her interest in handsome young gamekeeper Leo (Chris Trenfield) with whom she dances a key, extended duet sequence.

Bourne has always been at his best dramatizing vivid ideas through dance, and the weakness ofthat duet stems from the fact that it plays out too predictably. Indeed, there's a short-windedness to the choreography throughout much of the first half, which at times feels like prolonged setup. But he lets rip in his handling of Caradoc (tall and swooping Tom Jackson Greaves), Carabosse's dangerously sexy son who captures Aurora's eye and the production's focus as he carries out the legendary revenge.

The surprises and excitement level rise considerably in the second act, with lovestruck Leo also surviving Aurora's 100-year sleep courtesy of Count Lilac (Christopher Mamey), who has sunk his teeth into Leo's neck.

Whether the action takes place at the gilded palace, eerie woodland equipped with moving walkway or crimson-lit, neoninfested nightclub, much of the evening's increasingly torrid tone is controlled by Brotherston's vivid sets (and 160 costumes). …

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