Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty

I’ve always been one for traditional ballets performed in the classical way in every respect. I’ve never much liked contemporary ballet and not even a contemporary adaptation of a classic ballet – for some reason it always seems to lose its magic.  However this Christmas Day I recorded the BBC’s showing of Michael Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty, which I’ve just got round to watching. This version of Sleeping Beauty has been revamped into a gothic fairytale (screenshot below so you can get the vibe), and as I own a DVD of the ballet performed in the traditional way I have this to compare it to.

Sleeping beauty

Well, I really enjoyed watching this version! I loved the way that they have completely reinvented the way the music is used to tell the story. Forget the never-ending Christening prologue sequence with countless dances by various different guests bringing gifts (I’ve always found this scene so unnecessary because it is so long) – this was replaced with a humorous scene with a puppet baby Aurora being chased around by household staff, and then visited by the different immortals in her nursery at night.

The story in this version begins in an Edwardian setting, and after Aurora’s 100 year sleep ends up in the present day, which (apart from the costumes) didn’t make it any less magical or supernatural. The good “lilac fairy” is replaced with Count Lilac – a sort of vampire fairy – and the villain Carabosse, who curses Aurora, dies before Act 2 and her son Caradoc carries on her evil work. This is a great idea as he is a sinister handsome stranger, who after Aurora wakens, kidnaps her to take her as his own wife.

But the best thing about it was that it was really genuinely romantic, which I didn’t think was the case in the traditional version. There is no random handsome prince who appears from nowhere to kiss Aurora because he thinks she’s pretty. The hero is Aurora’s gardener and childhood sweetheart Leo, so they are already in love before she sleeps. And then when she is put to sleep, Leo is turned into an immortal (vampire/fairy whatever) so that he can wait 100 years for her and waken her with true love’s kiss (awww). The famous Rose Adagio isn’t about a selection of suitors for Aurora – it’s Leo showering her with roses from his wheelbarrow, and this dance was so sweet and the acting was amazing – it genuinely felt like a young romance developing.

So, despite the fact that it wasn’t filled with gorgeous tutus, I really loved it! It felt just as magical as the traditional version (although in a different way) and so much more romantic and therefore interesting. I was pleasantly surprised and would definitely consider watching other Michael Bourne ballets now.

4 thoughts on “Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty

  1. I have this taped to watch but I love Matthew Bourne’s work. His was the first non-traditional ballet I saw and I loved it. Have you seen his version of Swan Lake or The Car Man (based on Carmen)?

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