Thoughts On: Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty

Last night I was lucky enough to be treated to a trip to see Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty at the Birmingham Hippodrome. Matthew Bourne is something of a household name, due mostly to his famous Swan Lake, which features an all-male swan corps, rather than the traditional female one. However, I knew nothing about his version of Sleeping Beauty.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the story, Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty opens with a King Benedict and Queen Eleanor being granted a child, Aurora, by the fairy Carabosse. However, she does not believe that they have expressed their gratitude enough and thus casts the famous spell that states that if she pricks her finger she would die. Count Lilac, the lead ‘good’ fairy, changes the spell to be a sleep for 100 years, and the plot continues from there.

It’s a show that begins in the late 19th century and finishes ‘last night’ and it is visually just stunning. Lez Brotherson designed the sets and costumes and they were a) really clever and b) just lovely to look at. In particular, the beautiful white costumes worn in the Edwardian summer scene really stood out, as did the gloriously campy Caradoc’s cronies costumes towards the end.

It’s difficult to be 100% sure about who I saw perform last night, as there wasn’t a cast list handed out, but as Aurora, Ashley Shaw was really great at bringing a youthful exuberance to the role. Her duets with Leo, played (I think!) by Dominic North were pretty adorable. The two central fairies, danced by Adam Maskell and Christopher Marney were also fun to watch (and it was an interesting change to have these characters both be men). There was also a really fun ensemble of performances-in particular whoever was playing the footmen; finally a particular shout-out needs to go to the puppetry work which was excellent.

Some of the plot developments didn’t quite make sense to me, but it was a really fun evening out, and it was nice to see a ballet that wasn’t of epic proportions. It’s currently touring, and you can find out details of dates here.


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