Matthew Bourne takes the old Brothers Grimm fairytale “Sleeping Beauty” and transforms it into a goth love story with a modern twist. Bourne’s version gives the audience a greater sense of logic (of the supernatural kind) and dresses it up in fabulous costumes from three different eras. The production is only playing at the Ahmanson for two weeks, ending 1 December 2013.
The Brothers Grimm recorded “Little Briar Rose” while Charles Perrault published “La Belle au bois dormant.” Disney made the tale into an animated musical feature in 1959 with the princess named Aurora. The man who would wake her with a kiss is Prince Philip.
During a private tour of Tchaikovsky’s country retreat, Matthew Bourne decided to take “The Sleeping Beauty” on as his new project. Bourne had already taken another princess, Cinderella, and transported her to London during World War II. Thrilling, but dark, the central character was given a male angel for guidance and a wounded British airman for love.
In Bourne’s version, little Aurora is a bit of a scamp (portrayed at first by a puppet). Her parents are King Benedict (Edwin Ray and Chris Renfield) and Queen Eleanor (Daisy May Kemp and Nicole Kabera). In their once upon a time, they have been trying for years to have a child and finally have this baby girl, whom they name Aurora. As a young girl, Aurora (Ashley Shaw and Hannah Vassallo) is impetuous and, according to the program notes, her dancing style is based on Isadora Duncan (1877-1927).
Like Disney, Bourne didn’t buy the love at first sight where the Prince and Princess meet at the end of the story. Disney’s solution was to have Aurore meet when she is disguised as a peasant and fall in love before she fell asleep.
In Bourne’s version of “Sleeping Beauty,” the lovely Aurora has a childhood sweetheart, Leo, (Dominic North and Chris Trenfield), the royal gamekeeper. The curse has Aurora sleeping for 100 years. Yet just how does Leo survive the long wait? Remember in the Disney version, the heavy was Maleficent and she taunts the prince saying that she won’t release him until he’s old and gray. The sleeping Aurora would not have aged a day.
Instead of Maleficent, Bourne has Carabosse (Tom Jackson Greaves and Adam Maskell) as the resident evil. While Count Lilac (Christopher Marney and Liam Mower) is the king of the fairies, Carabosse is the dark fairy. For Bourne, the solution to keeping Leo and Aurora the same approximate age requires more European folklore. In addition, Carabosse also has a son, Caradoc (Tom Jackson Greaves and Adam Maskell).
Aurora awakens 100 years later, in our own time of cellphone photos and selfies and her gallant and very patient Leo is there. You’ll have to discover how this couple lives happily ever after.
Matthew Bourne’s “Sleeping Beauty” isn’t for purists and dreamy-eyed Disney fans, but if you like a little goth with a wee dash of horror, then Bourne’s ballet is a must see. Costume design Lez Brotherston gives the fairies costumes that mix aristocratic glamor with a bit of wildness. Expect plenty of men with their shirts off and women gracefully floating through the air with vitality instead of frosty sophistication. Bourne has added plenty of humorous bits to defrost the any snobbish chill.
You might change they way you think about fairies, but if you love dance and love modern ballet, this is a definite must-see. Matthew Bourne’s “Sleeping Beauty” opened on Thursday night, 21 November 2013, at the Ahmanson and continues until 1 December 2013. Don’t miss this delightful retelling of this classic fairytale.