Rain, thunder and woodland sounds effects greet the audience as we take our seats. The curtain is a play on a classic storybook, and uses projections to explain the story, inviting the audience into the fairy-tale. Classic gothic font completes the setting. 

Credit: Johan Persson

If Disney is your blueprint, there may be some surprises in store. Prepare to enjoy a gothic twist, with elements of the Grimm Brothers, music you will know from Disney’s great tale and many more variations of this story. Our villain, our friendly fairies, even our hero’s ability to stay alive for a 100 years… Matthew Bourne has certainly put his own spin on things and to great effect.

The chemistry between Ashley Shaw’s Princess Aurora and Andrew Monaghan’s Leo positively shines, as they play a beautiful young couple in love. Monaghan grounds Shaw’s youthful exuberance, her fearlessness and joy, through her lifts and leaps complimented by his embrace. Every time they dance together is genuinely heart-warming, and I couldn’t help but smile. 

Disney’s Maleficent is replaced by the original ‘bad’ fairy Carabosse, succeeded by her son Caradoc – both played by Paris Fitzpatrick. A part Darcy, part Dorian Grey villain who in the quest to avenge his mother, falls in love with our Sleeping Beauty. Fitzpartrick commands the stage as a malevolent force, a classic fairytale villain. The audience has to wait until the second half for his solo, a frantic and powerful piece that was over all too soon. His duets with Shaw are simply spellbinding. The lifeless sleeping dance along with the sharpness of her waking interactions contrast so beautifully with the romance felt through Aurora and Leo’s moves. 

The ensemble’s dances are truly mesmerising. An Edwardian tea party is complete with waltzing, picnics and tennis – light, soft, classic are contrasted by the modern masquerade ball, which is angular, with references to Fosse and Michael Jackson, with red dresses showing influence from tango, punk, 80s prom and a truly gorgeous pant suit. The land of sleepwalkers paired down, sleeping/undergarment in simple white lending an air of innocence and dreaming. Stunningly beautiful. Lez Brotherston’s costume design certainly got the memo re: period costumes you can dance in. With bustles accentuating the S Curve and beautifully tailored lines for the beginning of our story, into hoodies and jeans by the time we reach ‘Yesterday’. 

Credit: Johan Persson

The set comprises a gold curtain, gothic glamour, richness, palace, and picturesque Edwardian paintings. The arrival of the fairies through windows, turned mirrors on conveyor belts with smoke gave a wonderful illusion of flight to our fare folk. The palace radiates luxury and the ball decadence. As we move scenes in Act Two, a beautiful silver birch forest is erected, with fairy lights and an oversized full moon bringing a delightful, enchanted forest of dreamers. 

Through the interval 100 years passes (it’s only 20 mins don’t panic!) and our story reopens, we are told we are in modern times – complete with a font change! This was a small detail I just really appreciated it. 

There is a lovely humour to the production. A lightness with which characters interact as well as the elements of puppetry. 

Completing Bourne’s take in Tchaikovsky’s trilogy of ballet masterworks, Sleeping Beauty is an absolute triumph, and the 10th anniversary of Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty is utterly delightful, a visual and auditory feast. This is the reimagining fairy tales for contemporary audiences at its absolute best.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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