Review: Bourne…again

Sleeping-Beauty-7-450x300Richard Lutz takes his seat for Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty

“Once upon a time…” warns the written prologue that wavers in front of you, behind the gauze curtain.

And that can only mean one thing: this is the chance to re-work the classic fairytale ballet of Sleeping Beauty.

Forget the innocent Disney cartoon from 1959, or even the original grisly story from 300 years ago. This is Matthew Bourne. So, it’s a solid story of good versus evil. But, spoiler alert, vampires, punky spirits, rock and roll fairies, benevolent and malevolent forces battle for the heart of a princess sent to Slumberland for 100 years.

Bourne opts for the goth feel as he moves the time-spinning plot forward from 1899 through the golden days of Edwardiana to a sweaty nightclub of the 21st century. A goldmine, if nothing else, for a costume designer who grabs styles from as far afield as glam rock Adam Ant to street punk.

This is the third Tchaikovsky ballet he  has taken in – the other two are The Nutcracker and Swan Lake. And despite the sometimes overwhelming recorded music, there is a sparky and sensual exuberency to this Bourne effort at the Birmingham Hippodrome.

The sets are grand, especially the finale where the original ballroom scene descends into a hellishly louche club as noble huntsmen Leo (Dominic North) battles against evil fairy Caradoc (Adam Maskell) for the body and soul of Princess Aurora, danced winningly by Ashley Shaw.

And there’s a notable guest star, a remarkably lifelike puppet that can climb curtains and bawl with the best of them portraying the princess as a baby as she is overwhelmed by the twilight world.

So, if you like your classic ballet re-charged with something of the night, encased at times in waves of brocade and gold, it’s for you. Dynamic, beautiful to look at. Different.


Until 13th February. Tickets: 0844 338 5000