Seasoned hackette Bev Creagh and young journo Stewart Carr give their verdicts on Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty at Milton Keynes Theatre.
CREAGH SAYS .... Must admit upfront I’m nuts about Matthew Bourne and have been ever since I saw The Car Man.
My admiration for this choreographic genius has increased with every show I’ve seen - from Swan Lake to Cinderella and from Nutcracker! to Edward Scissorhands.
What I find particularly pleasing about a Bourne ballet is that even the minor roles are perfect cameos, danced with energy and character.
Sleeping Beauty is no exception - a slightly dark Gothic take on this childhood fantasy. There’s even a Dracula fairy with a nifty pair of gnashers.
The production captures the imagination right from the start with sumptuous sets, spectacular costumes and the most realistic puppet princess ever to grace a stage, manipulated by three dark shadowy figures who add to the intrigue.
There’s humour, pathos and a multiplicity of emotions as the young Aurora grows up - an awesome performance from Ashley Shaw who’s ethereal beauty and balletic ability are breathtaking.
There’s a slight deviation from the original story in that there’s no handsome prince but in his place Leo, a Royal gamekeeper (Dominic North). He eventually breaks the spell cast by the wicked fairy Carabosse and her son Caradoc , both played with electric effect and dark menace by Tom Clark.
The first half is so dramatic you really wonder whether the second will be able to match it. But of course it does - with a tremendously erotic scene involving the sleeping princess and the dark fairy. But my lips are sealed - you must see it for yourself.
And the tale comes full circle, with Aurora and Leo introducing their little puppet princess to a thunder of applause from the enthusiastic first night audience.
Thank you, Sir Matthew, for another evening of total delight.
CARR SAYS .... Classical ballet gets a sensual lift in Matthew Bourne’s new production of Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty.
The first thing that strikes out is the beautiful costumes and settings – this is a Sleeping Beauty set from 1890 to 1911 – and the Belle Epoque glamour, gold palatial stages and awesome full moon are (as one viewer squealed with excitement), “simply gorgeous!”
It’s almost Downtown Abbey-esque in it sumptuousness.
Australian ballet dancer Ashley Shaw picks up the reigns as the beautiful Princess Aurora, much more of a wild, earth child than the demure Disney Princess.
Almost every move by Shaw is wildy dramatic and unexpected, this Sleeping Beauty is as much a story of sexual awakening as a witch’s curse.
That witch of course is the wicked Carabosse – a tall, statueque Victorian dame (played by Tom Clark) – who attempts to wreak havoc on the infant Aurora – only to be stopped by a troupe of good fairies.
These pagan fairies are like something out of a renaissance pageant, each named by a different virtue.
Carabosse’s wicked vendetta against Aurora is continued by her son Caradoc – also played by Tom Clark – whose dark, brooding presence swallows up the stage.
Clark’s performance veers from brooding malevolently to outlandish acts of vengeance, it’s a star turn and was my favourite of the night.
If you want to see a dark fairytale this year, don’t miss out on this one. It’s grand style and emotional pull make it an equal draw for ballet lovers and those who aren’t usually fans.
Sleeping Beauty plays at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday, January 30.
See here for tickets.