Scouse Bird Problems – Liverpool Empire: Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty – A Gothic Romance

Posted On: 17/02/2016

By: Kate Nesta

Sleeping Beauty – the classic tale of a cursed princess awaiting her prince’s kiss, retold by Matthew Bourne as a dark and dramatic gothic romance. 

It starts with a beautiful backdrop of floor to ceiling Victorian windows with a huge full moon behind. We see baby Aurora, comedically puppeteered alongside the main characters in a light-hearted opening sequence. 

This soon moves to peril as the evil sorceress Carabosse comes to curse the princess after a deal made with the King and Queen was broken. The fairytale begins to unfold as the story quickly moves to Aurora’s 21st birthday and the evil Caradoc has come to complete his Mother Carabosse’s evil plan (both played by the talented Tom Clark). She pricks her finger on a cursed rose and falls under his spell. 

Bourne manages to capture this turbulent journey to cursed everlasting sleep with his beautiful use of colour and the breathtaking Tchaikovsky score throughout, including the original version of Disney’s ‘Once Upon A Dream’.

By the time the third act comes, 100 years have passed since Aurora has been cursed and Leo, the Royal gamekeeper, is about to start his journey to awaken her and save her from Caradoc’s clutches.

It begins with an enchanting sleep sequence, showing the entire cast ‘asleep’ under the good fairies’ spell in a mesmerising, ethereal scene. Once this passes however, the ballet moves into a fast paced, vibrant course of events that leaves the audience on the edge of their seats.

The stage is flooded with red whilst Leo and the King of the Fairies defeat Caradoc in a dark and elaborate fight scene. The chaos and peril of these final scenes, where good conquers evil, is the highlight of the entire production. The high energy and suspense has the audience holding their breath until Caradoc finally perishes. They’re drawn in until the very end. 

Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty then moves to the ‘happily ever after’ part of the story, where good has triumphed and Princess Aurora and Leo share a stunning dance in blissful happiness. The chemistry between the pair, Ashley Shaw and Chris Trenfield, is something of a fairytale coupling in itself. They truly bring the characters to life. 

While Matthew Bourne manages to adapt a well known fairytale into something much  deeper and more complex, he also makes ballet accessible to those who’ve never really appreciated or understood it before. He has no doubt opened many eyes to the beauty of ballet with last night’s display.

With an energetic and polished cast, extravagance pouring from every costume, backdrop and character, and an endearing level of comedy throughout, they deserved every last moment of their standing ovation at curtain call.


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