Choreographer Matthew Bourne’s supernatural take on ‘Sleeping Beauty’ will cast its spell over audiences here in the new city from Tuesday as part of its first ever revival tour, writes Georgina Butler.
The phenomenally popular fairytale remake was created by Bourne for his dance company, New Adventures, to mark their 25th birthday celebration. Premiered in 2012, the production was the fastest-selling show in New Adventures’ history.
It follows the success of Matthew Bourne’s ‘Nutcracker’ and ‘Swan Lake’ – both incredibly inventive interpretations of the Tchaikovsky ballet classics.
Bourne is renowned for creating compelling contemporary dance, complete with convincing characters and astute attention to detail.
A masterful storyteller, his repertoire of reimagined masterworks has won him huge acclaim.
Most recently, he received a Knighthood for services to dance in the New Year’s Honours List 2016.
Bourne waited for more than 20 years to complete his Tchaikovsky trilogy with ‘Sleeping Beauty’.
This was partly because the idea of putting his own spin on a score that is so associated with the pinnacle of classical ballet was such a daunting prospect.
The opulent classical ballet ‘The Sleeping Beauty’ was based on Charles Perrault’s fairy tale and choreographed by French ballet master Marius Petipa to glorious music composed by Tchaikovsky.
The first performance was given by the Imperial Ballet at the Mariinsky Theatre, St Petersburg, Russia, in 1890. Featuring now legendary passages of grandiose dance and a cast of enchanting storybook characters, this enduring work is widely regarded as a masterpiece – an example of 19th Century ballet at its resplendent best.
Of course, Bourne does not do ballet like everyone else does ballet.
His ‘Nutcracker’ was set in an orphanage and his ‘Swan Lake’ starred a flock of male swans.
He makes alterations to the narratives we all know so well to furnish his sense of story, producing witty, well-observed characters and an entertaining theatrical experience.
He may initially have felt that he was biting off more than he could chew but Bourne’s gothic romance approach to his ‘Sleeping Beauty’ had critics, fans and dance newbies wide awake and exclaiming “bravo” night after night when the show toured three years ago.
In many ways, the plot remains true to the original. Princess Aurora falls under a wicked spell which causes her to fall asleep for one hundred years, cursed to snooze until a kiss from her true love wakes her up.
However, Bourne vamps things up for a contemporary audience by introducing a blossoming romance between Aurora and the palace gardener, Leo, before the princess dozes off (making that true love’s kiss element slightly more believable – she’s not revived by just any old random prince who happens to be wandering past the castle!).
And, in order to make sense of the temporality of the tale (we are talking about a whole century passing while the princess has a royal nap, after all) Bourne laces the production with vampiric elements.
These include a fanged version of the Lilac Fairy (cunningly re-named Count Lilac) who is instrumental in helping the love-struck Leo preserve his youth and travel through the years so that he will be with Aurora for that all-important awakening kiss.
Bourne takes the year that Petipa’s ballet was premiered (1890), as his starting point, setting his Aurora’s christening at that time. This means that she grows into a young woman as the rigid, Edwardian era emerges and awakens from her century-long slumber in the modern day – a world more mysterious than any fairy tale!
Principal Dancer Dominic North first danced with New Adventures in 2004 and was promoted to Principal roles in 2008. He portrays Leo in Matthew Bourne’s ‘Sleeping Beauty’ and cannot wait to bring this “ballet” with bite back to Milton Keynes.
He said: “Milton Keynes Theatre is definitely one of the better venues on our tour schedule! Partly for its size as there is plenty of space both on-stage for dancing and off backstage. I love a nice dressing room - and I know I’ll get that, along with hot water!
"As well as the building itself, the crew are lovely and audiences in Milton Keynes are always really receptive.
“Bourne’s productions are all about getting audiences to engage. We have humour, crazy and loveable characters and stories that really draw you in - as well as lots of dance content. ‘Sleeping Beauty’ is no exception and I am really looking forward to our run in Milton Keynes!”
For an interview with principal dancer Dominic North, click this link: http://www.totalmk.co.uk/interview-new-adventures-principal-dominic-north-in-conversation/
Matthew Bourne’s ‘Sleeping Beauty’ returns to Milton Keynes Theatre from Tuesday 26th January until Saturday 30th January.
Book those tickets now via www.atgtickets.com/miltonkeynes or call the Box Office on 0844 871 7652.
For more dance and theatre news, reviews, features and interviews by Georgina, visit http://georginabutler.wordpress.com and follow her on Twitter @GeorginaLButler.