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BrumHour saw Sleeping Beauty at the invite of Birmingham Hippodrome.
By Eleanor Lawson twitter.com/Elle_Lawson
Review: Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty at Birmingham Hippodrome
⭐⭐⭐⭐A dark, gothic love story
Directed and choreographed by Sir Matthew Bourne OBE, music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Behind every saccharine Disney tale is a darker myth, embedded with heartache, torture, and loss.
The fairytales of the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson see heroines defeated and dying, villains maimed, and plenty of blood spilled before the final page is turned.
Legendary ballet choreographer Matthew Bourne understands this more than most and is known for taking a well-known story and transforming it into a completely new creature. His New Adventures production of Sleeping Beauty runs in the same vein, fully embracing its gothic roots and creating a world fully pervaded by the supernatural.
Magical fairies entertain the baby Aurora, but it is the reveal of a vampire at the end of the first half that had the audience audible gasping in shock.
The exposition of the story remains the same, as a desperate King Benedict (Danny Reubens) and Queen Eleanor (Stephanie Billers) long for a child and ache for their own perfect family. Our villain is Carabosse (Ben Brown), the dark fairy who becomes vengeful when the royal couple are not effusively grateful after she gives them a baby.
It’s an interesting decision to have this female villain, whose comparison in the Disney films is the glamorous Malificent, played by a man in drag – something I’ve never seen in a ballet before.
Her presence creates a fascinating dynamic in contrast to the traditional heterosexual couple of the king and queen, who ache to complete their heteronormative family unit.
Carabosse curses Princess Aurora (Ashley Shaw) to be pricked by a rose – a far more romantic and tempting symbol than a spinning wheel – after which she will fall into an unbreakable slumber.
It is the good fairies who create a cunning loophole, enabling Aurora to be woken by true love’s kiss.
This, we already know. Although Bourne turns the class dynamic on its head and replaces the handsome prince with Leo the Royal Gamekeeper (Andrew Monaghan), leading to a hidden romance between Leo and Aurora.
Further turning things on their head, the main villain of our piece is Caradoc (also played by Ben Brown) as Carabosse’s son, who starts out on a path for vengeance but increasingly becomes infatuated with Aurora.
Bourne explodes the timeline into an epic taking place over more than a hundred years, perhaps suggesting that a truly happy ending for a couple straddling the class divide is not possible for our protagonist in 1911.
As with every New Adventures production, this is an immaculate, vibrant production, with exquisite performances, set design, and music. The sets are so decadent and realistic that you feel as if you’ve been transported right into the pages of the fairytale itself.
Living up to the calibre expected of New Adventures and Matthew Bourne productions, this is a dark, gothic love story born of a time when vampires and supernatural creatures were the most desirable love interests around.
Limited tickets are available for Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty which is at Birmingham Hippodrome until 11th February. Book tickets here: birminghamhippodrome.com/calendar/mbs-sleeping-beauty.