After premiering in London back in December, Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty finally hit Sheffield last month. This new production completes a trilogy of reinterpretations of Tchaikovsky’s ballet masterpieces, following on from his wildly successful Nutckracker! (1992) and Swan Lake (1995). Sleeping Beauty therefore seems an obvious choice for Bourne, but he says he found the […]

After premiering in London back in December, Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty finally hit Sheffield last month. This new production completes a trilogy of reinterpretations of Tchaikovsky’s ballet masterpieces, following on from his wildly successful Nutckracker! (1992) and Swan Lake (1995). Sleeping Beauty therefore seems an obvious choice for Bourne, but he says he found the thought of tackling such a revered work daunting. The story would have to be considerably tweaked.

In his reimagining, Bourne retained Tchaikovsky’s score but took inspiration from all incarnations of the traditional story, from Perrault’s 1697 fairy tale to the 1959 Disney film. The result is a fantastical and gothic love story. We begin in the Victorian era with a wilful child called Aurora who has fairy godparents named Feral and Tantrum. The first half ends with a vampire bite and after a one hundred year interval, we are brought up to the present day, with teenagers in tracksuits taking ‘selfies’ outside the gates of the enchanted forest.

The staging was inventive, with moving conveyor belts providing opportunities for some incredible set pieces, notably a beautiful scene in a forest blanketed by rolling mist where the dancers seemingly float across stage. There was ingenious use of an eerily life-like puppet to play baby Aurora, who undoubtedly stole the show in the first act. Playful interactions and multiple lifts help to characterise the lovers Aurora and Leo and there were some inspired movements to represent sleep. Fantastic lighting aided the storytelling and in one nightclub scene the stage was flooded red to represent evil. Lez Brotherston’s sets and costumes were otherworldly. The fairies wore tattered, iridescent 18th century dress and their cherubic wings were pure fairy tale. Bourne’s characteristically extravagant sets included a view of a huge moon with twinkling LED stars and an Edwardian garden party complete with tennis rackets and white lace parasols.

Although it was slightly disappointing that the music was pre-recorded, this didn’t diminish a ballet which was nonetheless dream-like and visually stunning, so much so that the audience burst into spontaneous applause during the final scene. The skill and creativity that went into every aspect of this production means that even the strictest ballet purist, if they embrace the spirit of camp, couldn’t help but leave the theatre feeling enchanted.

Reviewer - Kate MacCarthy.