Matthew’s Bourne Sleeping Beauty, Sadler’s Wells
Once upon a time — 1890 to be precise — a winged silhouette conjures an infant from the ether. Excluded from the royal festivities surrounding Aurora’s arrival, the dark fairy Carabosse (Adam Maskell) curses the babe she created. A bevy of be-chiffoned faeries administer damage control and we have a game-plan: Aurora — initially portrayed by an impetuous puppet with a proclivity for scaling the curtains — is to prick her finger on her 21st birthday and fall into a slumber. The only thing that can awaken her is a true love’s kiss.
Matthew Bourne is an arch-magician in his management of Sleeping Beauty’s 100-year time jump. His choreography evolves in step with the story, nodding to the fashions of each period we pass through. In the Edwardian summer of 1911, we watch Shaw’s wild-child Aurora fall in love with the Royal Gamekeeper Leo (Dominic North), before coming of age and pricking her finger. This waltz-inspired episode poses a stark contrast to the full-bodied eroticism that characterises “yesterday”— a languorous present in which Leo must resuscitate his sleeping beauty.
The genius of this production lies not only in the way it arabesques through time — complemented at each stage by luxuriantly pertinent costuming from Lez Brotherston — but in its narrative arc. Bourne nods to Walt Disney in introducing us early on to the romance between Aurora and Leo; they are canoodling in 1911 when North pays Shaw a cheeky visit through her bedroom window, so we believe in his contemporary rescue mission absolutely.
The introduction of the character Caradoc, son of Carabosse, who nurses his mother’s resentments into the present day (a ponytailed, smouldering performance from Maskell) and the vampire-based plot-device that makes Leo’s apparition possible, however, are entirely Bourne’s innovations. Exhilarating, charged, and over all too quickly, New Adventures works its magic on Tchaikovsky’s music to send us this exceptionally vivid dream.
Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty is on until 24 January 2016 at Sadler’s Wells, Rosebery Ave, London EC1R 4TN. Tickets are £12-£65 and can be booked in advance online. Londonist saw this show on a complimentary ticket.