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Dance-theatre man Matthew Bourne brings his muddled gothic romance back to London for Christmas.
There was a certain inevitability in choreographer Matthew Bourne completing the Tchaikovsky classical ballet trio and following his Swan Lake and Nutcracker with a new spin on The Sleeping Beauty. Sadly, this 2012 production has always been the weakest of his three efforts and its latest revival reveals nothing’s changed.
The fairy tale of the princess put to sleep for 100 years has been given a gothic overhaul. The timeline runs from 1890 to the present day; we now have Caradoc, avenging son of wicked fairy Carabosse, who stalks around like Bella Lugosi; and Aurora’s true love hangs on for the requisite century by being turned into a vampire by the King of the Fairies. (This leaves Bourne trying, unsatisfactorily, to gloss over the fact he’s made his hero an undead bloodsucker liable to rip Aurora’s throat out.)
The usual stock Bourne minor characters are here – agitated servants, chinless poshos, etc – but there’s something rather anodyne about his protagonists, who never really get enough care devoted to their development. And while Lez Brotherston’s costumes through the ages are gorgeous, his sets are overwhelmingly bulky and cluttered. Characters’ big dance moments are hampered by the cast having to negotiate the furniture, and, when a dozen or so are trying to move around together, they’re often reduced to shuffling. Moving walkways for dancers look like awful cop-outs. A mangled Tchaikovsky score booms at us throughout.
As usual there’s a revolving cast: opening night’s Aurora, Ashley Shaw, is sparky, with a fresh, snapping finish to her movements, and a fearless spirit when she throws herself into holds; Dominic North, as love interest Leo, is a kind and thoughtful partner. Adam Maskell as both Carabosse and her son provides plenty of cartoon villainy. There are, also as usual with Bourne, nice touches and plenty of sly references for balletomanes – and, to depict baby Aurora, a sensational bit of puppetry work. But overall there’s too much muddle here to make it a really enjoyable show.
BY: SIOBHAN MURPHY
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