News: Reawakened - Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty

Thursday 12 March 2015 by Carmel Smith

Matthew Bourne's 'Sleeping Beauty' Photo: Simon Annand

A Matthew Bourne show at Sadler’s Wells for Christmas has become a contemporary tradition. This year sees the return of Bourne’s clever retelling of Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty and tickets for the eight week run (1 December – 24 January) go on sale today (13 March). When it premiered in 2012 the show rapidly become New Adventures (Bourne’s company) most popular production, selling out on its first UK tour and reaching 98% box office for its season at Sadler’s Wells before the run even opened.

Sleeping Beauty was created for New Adventures 25th birthday celebrations and completed Bourne’s trio of re-imagined Tchaikovsky ballet masterworks that started in 1992 with Nutcracker! and, continued in 1995, with the international hit Swan Lake – famously featuring male swans in place of the traditional tutu-ed corps de ballet.

“For me, it [ Sleeping Beauty ] is one of New Adventures finest achievements and the piece of which I am personally most proud,” says Bourne. “It also celebrates 20 years of working with my brilliant colleague, Lez Brotherston, who was rightly nominated for an Olivier Award for his glorious work on this production. I’m delighted that New Adventures will be waking up the Princess Aurora after only three years – 100 years seemed just too long to wait!”

Perrault’s fairy tale, about a young girl cursed to sleep for one hundred years, was turned into a legendary ballet by Tchaikovsky and choreographer, Marius Petipa, in 1890. Bourne takes this date as his starting point, setting the christening of heroine Princess Aurora, in the year of the ballet’s first performance; the height of the Fin-de-Siecle period when fairies, vampires and decadent opulence fed the gothic imagination. As Aurora grows into a young woman, we move forwards in time to the more rigid, uptight Edwardian era; a mythical golden age of long summer afternoons, croquet on the lawn and new dance crazes. Years later, awakening from her century long slumber, Aurora finds herself in the modern day – all the more mysterious than any fairy story.

Bourne’s new scenario introduces several characters not seen in Petipa’s famous Ballet or Grimm’s fairy tale. The imaginary kingdom is ruled over by King Benedict and Queen Eleanor. Rather than a prince, Princess Aurora’s romantic interest is a royal gamekeeper, Leo. The central forces of good and evil are represented by Count Lilac (“the King of the Fairies”) and the Dark Fairy Carabosse. There’s also a new character – Caradoc, the sinister but charming son of Carabosse and Princess Aurora’s line up of fairy godparents live up to their names – Ardor, Hibernia, Autumnus, Feral and Tantrum.

The New Adventures Sleeping Beauty tour opens in Plymouth on 17 October, stopping of for performances in Leicester, Glasgow and Salford before arriving in London for its opening at Sadler’s Wells on 1 December. The tour continues next year and includes dates in Italy, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, China and Singapore.

Full tour information

Photos: Simon Annand

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