Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty
Newcastle Theatre Royal
Until Saturday 29 April 2023
The New Adventures returns to the Newcastle Theatre Royal with Sir Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty for two weeks. It shows how a dance production with no spoken dialogue can tell a story effectively. Coupled with incredible dancing and a sense of humour, Sleeping Beauty is a real treat.
The show is marketed as a gothic romance. The sumptuous costumes and lavish sets certainly give the first half a gothic feel. It is also most certainly a romance too. But I'd add in the words 'fairy tale' and the Fairies have plenty of action in this show too.
Running just over 2 hours, with the interval, the show comprises of four acts - with the interval acting as a pivot between the modern day of the second half and the origins that took place a hundred years ago in the two acts that make up the first act. It is worth noting that the cast changes from show to show.
The action begins in 1890. Queen Eleanor (Stephanie Billers) and King Benedict (Danny Reubens) are unhappy as they don't have a child. They rely on the dark fairy Carabosse (Jackson Fisch) to help then with putting them in the family way. Unfortunately, when the child is born they forget to give Carabosse their due and so the fairy puts a curse on the young infant.
At this stage the infant is represented by one of the most animated and adorable puppets you can imagine - drawing plenty of response from the audience as it performed. Certainly it gave the palace footmen (Bertie - Isaac Peter Bowry and Archie - Rory MacLeod), Flossie the Maid (Megan Ferguson) and Nanny (Sophia Hurdley) the run around. This phase of the show help set the humour levels as the child had a mind of its own.
The show then moves to 1911 as Princess Aurora (now performed by Katrina Lyndon) comes of age. Between the scenes, text appears on the curtain to fill the audience in on the story - not too dissimilar to a silent movie. This way we know that Carabosse has died and the assumption is that the curse has gone with them. However their son, Caradoc (also played by Jackson Fisch) has not forgetten and is hanging around awaiting the opportunity to offer a rose for the young Princess to prick herself with. Alas Caradoc also manages to effectively drop the Gamekeeper Leo (Stephen Murray) in it as he is getting on too well with the Princess.
The interval then represents the 100 year interval as Aurora sleeps...
Act 3 brings the show into 2011. It is an era of hoodies and selfies and the costume transformation and posing for selfies at the gates to where Aurora lies brings the show rapidly in to the present day. Once we get past the gates and the assorted fairies take over then we are transported into a more gothic modern day. It gets very Tim Burton in parts - and that's a good thing in my opinion. The fourth act brings the show to "Yesterday" and Aurora's wedding. No spoilers here about how the show is told.
Needless to say the pace is effective and keeping the story going. Unlike traditional ballet, the action is closer to the storytelling than just a lot of spinning around for the sake of it. (Sorry if I come across as a 'dance heathen' there...but sometimes, in other shows...) Apart from the puppetry, the other amusing highlight for me was when Tchaikovsky's music stops and a dancer kicks the phonograph before it starts again. It was a small thing but it typified the general sense of humour at times. This is no po-faced production.
I really enjoyed this production. I loved the gothic fairy tale feel. A great cast performed with such precision and enthusiasm. Their energy permeated around the auditorium. This was also a fine example of storytelling too. Sleeping Beauty is a wonderful show.
Review: Stephen Oliver
Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty plays Newcastle Theatre Royal Tuesday 18 – Saturday 29 April 2023. Tickets can be purchased at www.theatreroyal.co.uk or from the Theatre Royal Box Office on 0191 232 7010.
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