Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Matthew Bourne's "Sleeping Beauty"
Nottingham Theatre Royal.

I have a confession to make. Last year I was converted, I had my head turned by someone i didn't think would be of interest to me. That man was Matthew Bourne. Well, closer to the truth would be that Matthew Bourne's ballet converted me to being a ballet fan.

In the same vein as Shakespeare, some people shy away from going to the theatre to see ballet in the same way as they feel that they can't understand the Bard and his works, Well let me tell you, if that's your way of thinking, you're missing out on a great deal of wonderful entertainment.

The latest in Matthew Bourne's wonderful re-imaginings of classic works ("Swan lake", "Edward Scissorhands", "The Car Man"), here this week is "Sleeping Beauty".

There are some slight differences to the well known pantomime but it follows the same story line and, with being ballet and having no dialogue, the story is relayed through the dance, which give a whole new perspective to the story. it really draws you in.

I'm no expert on ballet, but I know that watching these athletes of dance gives you such a feeling of calm, you leave the theatre feeling so relaxed after watching these incredible dancers and storytellers, ballet should be prescribed on the National Health, The feeling is so good.

Like the world of theatre, dance performances have to go that step further to keep fresh and to compete, and including a puppet baby "Aurora", which was so real looking, was an inspired touch and interacted well with the dancers. in my mind puppetry is an under valued art form, and when you look at shows like "Avenue Q" and "Little Shop Of Horrors", you can see what a difference this can make.

Anyone who knows how Matthew Bourne works will expect a dark performance and that was true here. "A Gothic Romance" is what it's billed as, and gothic in every sense it was, complete with evil fairies and vampires.

Adam Maskell who doubled as Carabosse, the dark fairy who cast the spell on Aurora (Ashley Shaw), as well as playing the dark fairy's son, Caradoc. Maskell oozed menace as he wreaked revenge for the death of Carabosse. He even plotted to entice Aurora's true love, Leo, played by Dominic North, to kiss the sleeping Aurora to bring her back to, life, just so that he could get his wicked hands on her. This plot worked but it all ends happily ever after.....for most of them! Remember this is a gothic re-working of a fairy tale

Everything that makes Matthew Bourne's shows so brilliant is replicated in this one. The incredible sets, the sumptuous costumes, the wonderful choreography, the comedy. There's even a sliding, conveyor belt like stage which gives the impression of the dancers floating in the air.

There's one particular setting with a large mansion on a hillock which is so realistic, complete with lit windows and such details, just beautiful, and that big old moon adds to the romance of the piece.

The light and shade between the bad fairies and the heroes of the piece is made obvious in the costumes and wonderful make up. Just looking at the credits for the people behind this masterpiece is longer than the cast and production team, which gives you an idea of the people involved in making this fairy tale a reality.

And of course there's the sweeping romantic music of Tchaikovsky. Bliss!

The timing, musicality, dramaturgy and attention to detail is incredible and just watching several of the dancers in the background of some the mass ensemble scenes is entertaining enough, so imagine trying to take in everything on stage all at once.

I noticed that some of the audience didn't look like your average ballet fan, if there is such a thing, but this is great because, whether the bald-headed ZZ Top lookalike and the T shirt and jeans bloke had been dragged there by their better halves, this shows that people like Mr Bourne is breaking down the barriers for the ballet theatre goers. now not an entertainment for the middle and upper classes; it's something that everyone can enjoy.

Matthew Bourne's "Sleeping Beauty" is at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 23 April 2016.

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