My rantings about book promotion made me decide that as I don’t really know what works (and I haven’t seen many scientific studies on the subject applicable to me) I’d rather do things that I like. One is writing. I also love reading, so I’ll carry on hosting guest authors (even classics that have stood the test of time), but I also love other things. I go to the cinema and to the theatre often, and I also enjoy other performances.
The 24th of May I went to see Matthew Bourne’s version of the Sleeping Beauty, Tchaikovsky’s well known ballet. Matthew Bourne, for those who don’t know him, is much more than a choreographer. His ballets are full blown creations, where everything (story, music, dancing, clothes, staging) is part of the story. If I could only say one thing about him I’d say he’s never boring. His ballets are not the formal, points and tutus kind of thing many people have in mind. Although he does versions of classics (together with completely new ballets, like ‘Dorian Gray’ or ‘Car Man’) and the quality of the dancing is as good, if not better, than anything you’ll see, it is never quite the story you remember.
I have been following his work for the last 9 or 10 years, although New Adventures, his company, is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. I first heard him being interviewed in Radio 2 (BBC) when he was talking about ‘Highland Fling’ (and let me tell you, that’s a ‘wee [read little, Scottish expression] Scottish ballet’ with its first scene set in male urinals. It gets increasingly fanciful as it goes along, and I particularly loved the fairy with her tiny suitcase) that was touring. As it was going to be performed at the Lowry (if you have a chance and are visiting Manchester in the UK, don’t miss the Lowry museum and theatre and right next to it the Imperial War Museum North. Both incredible buildings always hosting great exhibitions) I had to go. And I’ve followed him since.
But enough preamble. To ‘Sleeping Beauty’. Matthew (not sure I should take such familiarities with him, but I’ve seen him at a Q&A session, so…I’ll consider him a friend) had to change it a tiny bit. In the programme of yesterday’s performance he explains that one of the problem with the story is that the prince just turns up at the end and rescues Aurora and there’s no real love story. So he decided that Aurora and Leo (he’s not a prince, he’s a gardener/keeper in the Castle) should meet and be in love before she falls asleep. One of my personal problems with the story is that Aurora spends most of the story asleep and indeed she’s an object of desire. Although that still happens, the Aurora in his version seems to be part of some sort of deal with the bad fairy, and she’s a bit of a special child. The wonderful puppet that substitutes the baby Aurora is quite wild, climbing up curtains and never doing what is expected. The young Aurora is also fairly wild and loves to take her shoes off and dance barefoot in the woods.
What else changes? Yes, some of the fairies are male (no surprises there, if you’ve seen the Nutcracker you know fairies come in all sizes, shapes and genders) and…if you love vampires…you’ll like this ballet. We have another baddy, we have mobile phones and modern day clothes, wonderful costumes, beautiful dancing…
To me Matthew Bourne’s ballets are very cinematic and a full spectacle. He tells wonderful stories and the ballet is a medium rather than the end.
Any buts? I would probably have preferred live music. And despite how much I love the puppetry, sometimes the technical aspects of it make the changes of set a bit clanky.
But if you have any opportunity to watch this or any other of his ballets, don’t miss it. If you like ballets, because they’re wonderful. If you don’t, because they are refreshingly different. They’re magical.
Thanks for reading!
- Theatre: Review: Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty, Newcastle Theatre Royal (journallive.co.uk)
- Matthew Bourne’s gothic romance ballet (lamodelemonde.co.uk)
- This week’s new dance (guardian.co.uk)