Saturday, May 25

Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty – The Lowry

Wow! For the awesome stage set and evocative costumes (such creativity from Lez Brotherton).

Wow! For the hauntingly beautiful music (composed by Tchaikovsky)

Wow! To the director, choreography and scenario concept (the incredible Sir Matthew Bourne)

Wow! To the amazing talent of all the company for their performance, of this sublime version of this well-known fairy tale of deception, passion and devotion. 

That could be the full scope of my review for the performance at the Lowry – WOW! but I want to share more ……

Matthew Bourne is an advocate of the astonishingly beautiful works of the Russian composer Tchaikovsky, having already directed and created the ballets The Nutcracker! (Composed in 1891) and Swan Lake (1877) and now his latest gothic take on the masterpiece Sleeping Beauty (composed in 1890), in the 25th Anniversary of the Bourne New Adventures company and also the 10th anniversary of his remake of this ballet first being performed has come to the nation in s stoke of coincidental genius.  Bourne, introduces us to this fairy story, as all fairy stories do with ‘once upon a time’ and the packed audience sat agape for the tale to unfold, as these words were thrown across the opening curtain. We are welcomed to the year 1890 (coincidentally the year that the score for this ballet was composed) to a time when a queen and king -bereft of having a child- are offered a daughter by the dark fairy Carabosse (Maleficent in the Disney version of the tale). We witness the busy palace staff looking after the boisterous infant (which is improvised very cleverly by a puppet), and the dark story is injected with superb creativity from the start. We are endearingly in love with the child from the onset. As the child sleeps, she is visited by 6 fairies – Ardor, (the fair of passion), Hibernia (the fairy of rebirth, Autumnus (the fairy of plenty), Feral (the fairy of spirit) Tantrum (the fairy of temperament) and Count Lilac the king of the fairies (played wonderfully by the talented Dominic North) – who all leave feathers from their wings to protect this vulnerable child. The Dark Fairy Carabosse (played by the very charismatic Paris Fitzpatrick) tries in vain to capture the infant by leaving a dark rose, but the ‘good’ fairies are the victors, and the child is safe from harm for 21 years.

Photo: Johan Persson

We are then transported to the year 1911 and Aurora’s 21st birthday party. We see Aurora and her feisty ways are still there, with her reluctance to obey, wear shoes and determination to fall in love with her heart’s desire – the royal game keeper – Leo, (the brilliant Andrew Monaghan) whom she meets secretly in her room before she is whisked off to her birthday party in the palace grounds. At her party, the scenery was breath-taking with the palace back drop and the recreation of the Edwardian costumes all in exquisite detail. At the party, Aurora not only is reunited with her beloved Leo, but she also meets the evil Caradoc (also played by the gifted Paris Fitzpatrick) who is set upon revenge for the failed attempt on Aurora’s life by his mother Carabosse all those years ago.  Caradoc tricks Aurora into pricking her figure on the dark rose and the fairy tale awakens. Aurora is taken in her deep comatose sleep, to the locked gates never to be seen for 100 years, much to the dismay of Leo, who then assisted by the Lilac Prince (in a twist that I will not reveal) is given the opportunity to be there once the 100-year spell is broken, so he can be reunited with his love once more. And so, the beautiful princess is locked away for a century, in which time all are deceased with the exception of Leo and the formidable Caradoc.

Act two sees us in the land of the sleepwalkers and in this forest, Aurora eventually wakes from her century slumber and is reunited with Leo having been kissed by him – her true love – but is then swiftly abducted by Caradoc once more to be taken for his bride. The sequence in the wood is hauntingly beautiful and how the amazingly talented Ashley Shaw, who was Aurora, danced – as if liquid – whilst blindfolded was incredible.

The wedding scene with the gothic attendees in scarlet costumes, swaying as a cult of demonised beings under the blue neon lights, welcomed us to present day in a sensual ritual of horror and surrender.  The king of the fairies Count Lilac and Caradoc meet and as in all fairy stories, good reigns over evil and the two lovers are reunited forever.

It was incredible! It was an experience that is addictive. I want to see this again and again – for the sublime costumes, awe-inspiring dances and heavenly music and you will too! Go enjoy this masterpiece and be enraptured in this fairy tale of twists, imagination and delight! 

Prices from £17.00. Showing Tuesday 22nd November – Saturday 26th November 2022,

Reviewer Jan Mellor

Reviewed: 23rd November 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★