I’m so lucky to have seen five of Matthew Bourne’s ballets and Sleeping Beauty was the latest. As usual, Matthew Bourne has to put his own twist by making this a gothic tale. This following review will contain spoilers of the ballet.
Sleeping Beauty the Trailer
As you can probably see from the trailer, it’s not your regular type of ballet performance. It starts straight away with the baby princess which has been longed for by her parents and helped to conceive by fairy, Carabosse. The baby is a puppet and expertly managed, causing much amusement in the audience. She gets up to all sorts of antics, including climbing the curtains at one point.
At night, once the little princess has been put down to sleep, she is visited by fairies who each leave her a feather and bestow her with love and dancing. The costumes had a touch of gothic darkness, mixed in with fairy wings. The dancing was simply magic and mesmerizing in a darkened scene lit by a huge moon in the background.
Then, things took a darker turn when the fairy Carabosse, who had been forgotten in her help of conception, arrived. She bestowed a curse on the baby. Not the usual prick of a spindle, but a blue rose that would kill her on her 16th birthday. One remaining fairy uses his power so that the curse will not kill the princess but put her in a sleep until her true love rescues her after 100 years.
Fast forward until the baby comes of age, as we are informed by text on the curtains, and she is portrayed as a precocious teenager, refusing to get dressed up for her birthday party and leaving her window open for a visit from her boyfriend, the gardener Leo. We have also been informed that Carabosse has died and the King and Queen believe her curse has died with her.
The party goes ahead, with some stunning dance routines including the piece ‘Once Upon a Dream.’ The Princess dances with most of the guests but one is particularly moodier than the others and he carries a blue rose. He is the son of the fairy Carabosse, Caradoc, and he plans to make sure her curse remains. He gives the princes the rose and, of course, she pricks her finger. The princess and her family and friends fall asleep and a fairy closes up the castle for 100 years. But, her lover is just a mere mortal, locked out of the castle. How will he live for so long? The fairy makes sure he does by revealing his vampire teeth and biting the boy just before the end of act one.
100 Years Later
The Second act brings us up to date with modern tourists looking at the outside of the castle. The young man, Leo, has been waiting patiently outside for 100 years and now it’s time for him to run, and run, and run to rescue his princess. Matthew Bourne loves to have touches of humour to his performances and having the boy run was amusing. I also noticed how he’d drawn tally marks on his tent where he’d been waiting for his time of rescue.
Meanwhile, things are a little darker inside the castle with all kinds of evil demons performing rituals around the princess with the Caradoc at the lead. The whole thing is quite stunning in red and black. Caradoc tries to wake the princess with no luck but it still doesn’t stop them from dancing together beautifully. He swings her around in a semi-conscious state, in a dress which was reminiscent of Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride.
Eventually Leo arrives and is allied by the fairy/vampire that sired him. They infiltrate the party and rescue the princess at the very last moment. I really don’t want to spoil the ending, but it was visually stunning and quite heart stopping.
Of course, every fairy tale has to have a happy ending and the princess and her true love are together with their family and have a baby…..with wings.
I think Sleeping Beauty has always been one of my favourite fairy tales, and Maleficent one of my favourite movies. I was really happy with Matthew Bourne’s adaptation of this classic, staying true to the bones of the story but adding so much more. It was both moving and beautiful and scary. Just as it should be. The addition of vampires gave the 100 year wait an interesting twist.
The costumes were visually stunning and I loved the change from the fairy tale beginning to the darkness inside the castle in the second half. I cannot fault the dancing, it was absolutely mesmerising. If you don’t think ballet is your thing but you do like Strictly Come Dancing, then Matthew Bourne will appeal because he is a blend of traditional and modern. Some people maybe a little put off by his themes but you have to go in with an open mind and let it fill your imagination and excite your emotions.
It would be difficult to pick a favourite from the Matthew Bourne’s ballets that I have seen but Sleeping Beauty is definitely near the top.
I took a sneaky photo at the end with cast taking their applause. Being so close to the stage is fantastic, you can see all the facial expressions and costumes up close.
Here are the links to my other Matthew Bourne Reviews
Have you ever seen a Matthew Bourne Ballet?
I really like that Matthew Bourne puts his own twist on the classics. This sounds like a great story and a fantastic show. x
I once lucked out with front row seats for The Nutcracker. Totally wonderful! Being close really adds to the fun.
The show sounds fantastic. I’m glad you had a lovely time. I think there’s something magical about watching a live performance. It’s been years since I went to watch one. x
Your article on Matthew Bourne’s “Sleeping Beauty” was a compelling read. It was interesting to read about the Gothic twist that Bourne brought to this classic fairy tale, and how he incorporated elements of the supernatural and macabre into the production. Your detailed description of the costumes, music, and set design really helped to bring the performance to life in my mind. Overall, your article was a great introduction to this unique and haunting interpretation of “Sleeping Beauty”. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and insights with us!
I’m not sure I know the original story anymore as there are so many adaptations, but I think it’s lovely all these versions. Thanks for joining in with #pocolo