Matthew Bourne's ‘Sleeping Beauty’ awakes

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‘Sleeping Beauty’ has been given a ‘Twilight’-inspired makeover at Sadler's Wells

Simon Annand

Matthew Bourne is the Madonna of the dance world: endlessly reinventing. He switched up ‘Swan Lake’ to make it a gay romance with a cast of male swans, he turned ‘Cinderella’ into a wartime love story and now he’s got his hands on ‘Sleeping Beauty’, one of the less inspiring stories of the ballet canon. So how is he going to transform it into ‘Beauty’ 2.0? Lyndsey Winship finds out.


  • It’s all in the timing

    Bourne’s version crosses three centuries, opening with heroine Aurora’s birth in 1890, the year the original ballet was made. She pricks her finger aged 21 in 1911 and wakes up a century later. Hello Facebook!

  • Keep the good stuff

    The one thing Bourne hasn’t really changed is the music. Tchaikovsky’s lushly romantic score gets rejigged and pruned (‘I didn’t want it to be four hours long,’ Bourne says) but all the glorious melody is in there.

  • Flesh out the characters

    The original character of Aurora is pretty bland. A good girl who spends half the ballet kipping and then dimly marries the first man she sees when she wakes up. Not so in Bourne’s version where his nature-loving Aurora is ‘a bit of a wild child’.

  • Shake up the plot (and add vampires)

    ‘The thing that was missing was the love story,’ says Bourne. ‘If there’s one thing that leaves me cold, it’s the handsome prince turning up at the end and them getting married – they don’t even know each other!’

    Bourne’s solution was to give the young Aurora a sweetheart, a hunky gamekeeper. But when Aurora beds down for a century of snore, Bourne immediately had a problem. How could her true love still be alive when she woke up? Well, as fans of ‘Twilight’ and ‘True Blood’ know, there are certain pointy-toothed ways of becoming immortal. That’s when it all goes a bit gothic…

See Matthew Bourne's 'Sleeping Beauty'

  • Until Jan 26 2013, Sadler's Wells

    Bourne reimagines the dusty old fairytale with tongue-in-cheek humour, contemporary references and accessible, theatrical dance.

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