Sadler’s Wells Theatre
January 14, 2023
Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty has enjoyed a very successful Christmas season at Sadler’s Wells. It’s a favourite fairy tale, enhanced by Tchaikovsky’s magical score and Bourne, with his well-developed theatrical instincts, has given it a highly imaginative twist. The famous kiss is there but it’s a male kiss given by good vampire, Count Lilac, to Leo, Aurora’s lover, to ensure that he will be around in one hundred years’ time to welcome her back to life. Confused? You won’t be, as Bourne is a master at bringing narrative to life through movement.
Despite updating the tale, Bourne remains faithful to much of Petipa’s ballet while the fairies, dressed in theatrical Gothic glamour, exquisitely designed by Lez Brotherston, provide the fantasy. The variations, imaginatively choreographed and danced with glee, remain intact led by the elegant Paris Fitzpatrick as Prince Lilac, who displays a finely honed technique and unforced authority. The interaction between fairies, a very mischievous baby and household staff offers plenty of opportunity for high comedy which Bourne exploits to good effect.
Twenty-one years pass and Aurora, (Katrina Lyndon) has grown into a gorgeous and feisty young woman defying palace conventions by kicking off her shoes and falling in love with the gardener Leo, played by Stephen Murray. Lyndon takes to the role with energy, passion and visible delight. The couple have challenging duets that draw on their strong ballet and contemporary technique in addition to building appealing characters. The couple don’t have to wait for Act 3 to get together as there are secret assignations as he climbs through the bedroom window or when they sneak a kiss behind the rosebushes. Caradoc, son of Carabosse (both played with wicked intent by Ben Brown) is the uninvited visitor to Aurora’s 21st birthday. He has come to avenge his mother’s death but cannot kill Aurora because of Lilac’s intervention. Aurora sinks into her ordained, deep sleep and the forest grows around the palace.
The drama develops in the Vision Scene. On the lengthy journey, resourcefully aided by a travelator, Lilac leads Leo to the palace. Bourne makes the most of Tchaikovsky’s haunting melodies as Fitzpatrick has an opportunity to take centre stage in lush, expansive movement and Leo dances ecstatically with a rose in anticipation of reuniting with his true love.
It is Caradoc who first tries to awaken Aurora with a kiss, but to no avail. He kidnaps her and the tension builds as the action moves to Caradoc’s dark, satanic world where his followers dressed in red and black dance wildly in the red glow led by Brown, as handsome and charismatic as the best of villains.
Lilac and Leo enter in disguise and in a nail-biting finish, Aurora is snatched away. Of course, there has to be the happy end, the grand pas de deux in modern dress and dance is beautifully romantic. The final group is a trio: Aurora, Leo and baby all bewinged and fanged, prepared to live happily for ever and ever and ever. It’s a treat!