Thursday, February 29

Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty – Edinburgh Festival Theatre

IMHO the fairy tale tradition meets tattoos meets masks meets humour meets intense physical creativity meets time … is a feast. Matthew Bourne’s recreation of Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty is all his Gothic own and yet not.

The man himself credits the original dancers with contributing to the exquisite storytelling and, there is no doubt, his long-term collaboration with designer Lez Brotherston is a winning combination. It is a beautiful creation of light and dark. The performers clearly love what they do and their passion bleeds into the auditorium and captures your body and soul.

Bourne cares about every detail and he inspires equal attentiveness in his cast and crew. The result is a deeply, deeply satisfying and uplifting narrative. A radical vampiric element is stirred into various renditions of this classic fairy tale. Subtle soundscapes (Paul Groothuis) augment Tchaikovsky’s score, adding to the mood and tone of a fantastical production. Paule Constable’s lighting further enhances the texture of the story telling. New Adventures is exactly what this company does. It is always daring, bold and audacious.

Each dancer is responsible for several parts, playing different roles on different nights. Some of them double as puppet masters and don their blacks over fake moustaches and full costumes. New Adventures is a team of amazing athletes. There is not a weak link among them.

Coredleia Braithwaite as Aurora was staggeringly wonderful. She was cheeky, vibrant, brilliant and a ball of endless energy, until she fell asleep. And then, she was a wonderful sleepy princess. Impressive.

Credit: Johan Persson

Ben Brown played a gorgeously malevolent Carabosse and then Caradoc her son. He was powerful and brooding, yet light and majestic. His costumes were to die for but if he’d danced in a black leotard, it would have entranced regardless.

Count Lilac, the king of the fairies, was superbly portrayed by Paris Fitzpatrick. He was magical, indeed. A capricious sprite in Brotherston’s fabulous outfit.

Rory MacLeod played Leo, the Royal Gamekeeper with tenderness and conviction. His naturalness amid the mystical highlighted the contrast and co-existence of humans and fairies which, for so long, was part of our cultural beliefs.

And those fairies! The ensemble played them superbly before transitioning into Edwardian gentry at a garden party and then jeans and hoody tourists before donning scarlet outfits and creating a cruel spiteful party, cold-shouldering the outsider. The mix of traditional tropes such as Once Upon a Time with the passage of time and the concept of time travel on the travelators … it all works.

Dreamlike and magical and lit by giant full moons, this production transports you to the mystical supernatural where bodies and mime convey truth, beauty and meaning. A sprinkling of fairy dust is just the tonic in a gloomy post-Brexit Britain. Thankfully, New Adventures is a charity and is bringing these creative delights to schools around the country. So, while some of us may be in financial crisis, we can still look at the stars and marvel.

Playing until 15th April,

Reviewer: Kathleen Mansfield

Reviewed: 11th April 2023

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★