Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty at Bristol Hippodrome

AS any top class chef will tell you, high quality ingredients are required if you are to produce a memorable meal.

And with the team behind this production – set and costume designer Lez Brotherston, lighting and sound designers Paule Constable, and Paul Groothuis, plus a classic fairytale set to Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s haunting music, and a group of exciting, totally committed dancers, Matthew Bourne can readily claim that he has surrounded himself with top class ingredients.

Even with such ingredients to hand you can still wind up with a very run-of-the-mill finished article if the head chef does not have the flair and imagination to take advantage of these golden opportunities. If the name of the chef happens to be Sir Matthew Bourne, then the chances of failing to blend all those talents together is non-existent.

Every note of music, beautifully recorded by The Sleeping Beauty Orchestra under the baton of Brett Morris, and each twist and turn in Bourne’s new scenario (which takes the story from 1890 to yesterday), is utilised to the full. Each dance step and piece of mime, whether it is carried out by a principal or a member of the company in the background, fits and enhances the moment, bringing drama, comedy, pathos or romance to the scene.

Among the thousands of trite interviews that take place before and after a football match, an occasional pearl of wisdom can be found. One such in replay to the question of why a team were playing so well under a new manager was, “because they want to play for him”. Watching this young, vibrant company mixing dance and mime together in a manner that screamed out that they loved their work and were out to please their director/choreographer with every movement, was pure joy for the audience.

As was Katrina Lyndon’s Princess Aurora (Sleeping Beauty), one minute a naughty, playful child, the next a beautiful young woman, fighting against Ben Brown’s oily evil Caradoc, son of the Dark Fairy Carabosse, also danced by Ben Brown, and falling deeply in love with Rory MacLeod’s moodily athletic Royal Gamekeeper Leo.

All the ingredients of the familiar story are there, but mixed in a manner that throws new light on both story and characters. It’s a dangerous path to go down full of unseen pitfalls, if you do not have the imagination and skills to do so without loosing the charm of the original tale.

Fortunately this production has a director, choreographer and writer, who has deep respect for the original story and Tchaikovsky’s wonderful score, and the skill and imagination to make full use of the top class ingredients on offer, on and off stage.



Photographs by Johan Persson

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