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Sleeping Beauty, Sadler’s Wells – Review

Pros: Every element of the performance combines to create outstanding visuals.

Cons: I wish there had been a live orchestra.

Pros: Every element of the performance combines to create outstanding visuals. Cons: I wish there had been a live orchestra. Matthew Bourne’s variation on Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece doesn't go too far from Charles Perrault’s original tale. It does take a big step away, though, when offering a clearly marked periodisation to the story; mainly through the costumes and the projected titles. In his post-show talk, Bourne explained to the public how the necessity of keeping alive the charming Leo (Dominic North), after a time lapse of a hundred years, had been solved by introducing what he likes to call “vampiric fairies”…

Summary

Rating

Excellent

A classic children’s tale of sorcery and romance which captivates a grown-up audience with its gothic allure.

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Matthew Bourne’s variation on Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece doesn’t go too far from Charles Perrault’s original tale. It does take a big step away, though, when offering a clearly marked periodisation to the story; mainly through the costumes and the projected titles. In his post-show talk, Bourne explained to the public how the necessity of keeping alive the charming Leo (Dominic North), after a time lapse of a hundred years, had been solved by introducing what he likes to call “vampiric fairies” to the story. Thanks to a bite from these eerie creatures, the gamekeeper in love with Aurora is able to survive during the princess’ long sleep. Then, after waking her with a kiss, he’s equally ready to rescue her from the maleficent Caradoc (Tom Clark).

The cast fill the stage with flawless symmetric figures and skilful solos. Their duets beam passion. Ashley Shaw, in the role of Aurora, regales the audience with a plastic body. She glides around with her dancing partners like a silk scarf but never lacks energy and muscular strength. Asleep or blindfolded, her performances are always a pleasure to watch. Brave dancing is required for the male role of Carabosse/Caradoc.  He makes his first appearance as the evil mother and, therefore, has to perform in heels. During the above-mentioned talk, Tom Clark confessed that he initially struggled to keep his balance.

Every detail of this production demonstrates the presence of an excellent creative team. Baby Aurora is a great example of puppetry, while multi-awarded designer Lez Brotherston creates a magical set. The scenarios are beautiful, and the cleverly sliding pavements used on stage give the illusion that the dancers are floating. His costumes are both sumptuous and minimal, with regard to the fast running timeline, which spans over the centuries to reach modern times. Aurora’s swaying white gown, Caradoc’s looks and the winged creatures led by Count Lilac (Christopher Marney) are only the main course of a visual feast for gothic lovers.

Lighting designer Paule Constable’s work also contributes greatly to the enchantment. The stage is warmly candlelit during scenes in the castle, or when frozen under a gigantic full moon while in the forest.  It’s kissed by sunlight on a summer afternoon in the park or flooded with blood at the evil Caradoc’s reception.

The only limitation of Bourne’s accomplished staging is the absence of an orchestra. The sound quality of the production is good, but nothing compares to the beauty of live music.

Last but not least, Sadler’s Wells offers great value for money. The cheapest ticket in the house is sold for £12 and, despite advising a restricted view, the handrail doesn’t really get in the way. The seats are adequately raked, and the second circle is not too far from the stage. This is the recommended choice for those on a budget who want a top class experience.

Choreographer and Director: Matthew Bourne
Composer: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Producer: Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures
Booking Until: 24 January 2016
Box Office: 020 7863 8000
Booking Link: https://secure.sadlerswells.com/production/41689

About Marianna Meloni

Marianna Meloni
Marianna, being Italian, has an opinion on just about everything. Her dream has always been to become an arts critic and, after collecting a few degrees, she realised that it was easier to learn how to write in a foreign language than finding a job in her home country. She believes that anything deserves an honest review and that more people going to the theatre would result in fewer wars. Recently she has developed intolerance toward the words “secret” and “immersive” but she hopes it’s only temporary.