A Christmas treat: Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty: A Gothic Romance

Sadler’s Wells, London
December 3, 2022

Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty has all the right ingredients delivered by a lively cast power-boosted with talent and energy. The setting is a Lez Brotherston fantasy. There is extravagance in the grand palace and magic in the rag-a-muffin glam of the fairy cohort. The formality of the royal household is offset by the comedy of a delinquent baby cleverly manipulated by skilful puppeteers, who deserve a curtain call.

The Gothic twist proves Bourne’s theatrical nous. It makes sense of the hundred-year sleepover in the fairy story and enables a witty denouement where the happy family become a charming species of benign vampires and all live happily for ever and ever and ever. Aurora, a spirited Ashley Shaw, strikes the right tone of naughty but nice while her beau, Leo, played by  Andrew Monaghan is a true salt of the earth always on hand and ready to leap through a window for his true love.

Carabosse and her henchmen
(pictured Perreira De Jesus Franque, Paris Fitzpatrick and Ben Brown)
Photo Johan Persson

The real baddie vampire, Carabosse/Caradoc, played by Jackson Fisch, adds the frisson of danger. Severe and authoritarian, you can feel the goosebumps rising as he walks on stage. When Aurora is kidnapped, the action moves into the red zone with hints of a witches’ sabbath, wild dance and a lot of fun. But Caradoc has not reckoned with the power of love and with a little deception, Aurora flees his clutches to get her kiss from the right man. 

Paris Fitzpatrick as Count Lilac makes a formidable champion for the good guys. His solo variation was impressive with sensitive finish to the musical phrases, contrasting well with the bright virtuosity of the other fairy solos. Enrique Ngbokota, as Tantrum, a dancer of exceptional fluid movement, stood out in the team of exuberant fairies.

Andrew Monaghan and Ashley Shaw as Leo and Aurora
Photo Johan Persson

Tchaikovsky’s score is full of gorgeous melodies which are well used, sometimes in slightly unusual places, but always to good effect. The travelator, fairly standard for the transformation scene, is also used to interesting effect in the bedroom scene where fairies enter the mortal realm and seems to be floating through the room. The scenes of fantasy and real life happily mix and match and the dozens of character vignettes are well timed to catch the comedy and well acted to carry the narrative. With some of Bourne’s best choreography in the detail of the variations, the passion of the duets and strong ensemble numbers, it’s a Christmas treat.

The full houses at Sadler’s Wells proves the vibrancy of the arts sector which has bounced back with such vigour. What a pity our government can’t see this is the sector they should be supporting fully to keep Britain great.

Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty: A Gothic Romance continues at Sadler’s Wells to January 15, 2023.