Friday, 18 March 2016

Theatre 2016: Review Ten

Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty, Theatre Royal, Norwich. March 2016.

Talking about this production is hard, it isn't that I didn't totally enjoy it but at the same time I there was a lot about this production that left me cold - and I know these views are going to put me in a minority.

In fact I've been feeling so conflicted over this show that I've been talking about it loads with the other people I went with and each time I 'see' something new and simultaneously like it more and less.

From the subtitle "A Gothic Romance" you know that you are going to get something different from a classical ballet and I was fine with that - after all this is the third Matthew Bourne adaptation I've seen and none of them have been in anyway traditional. I didn't mind that the fairies were vampires and looked more like extras from a Tim Burton film, that was fine.

My worries started with their first arrival however where there was the beautiful music and the beautiful dancing but the two just didn't seem to correspond at all, I felt that there was no actual interpretation of the music.

We then met 21 year old Aurora and in her first scene she lays on her back, on her bed shows off her bloomers and rolls down her stockings - this is going to be quite a sexual performance rather than a sensual one...

The garden party scene was nice, and then at the end of the first act came the part I truly loved when Aurora and the gardener's boy dance together - they moved together beautifully and as well as being sensual there was character growth as Aurora threw off her sophisticated, sexualised, behaviour and became child like in true love.  The final scene with the enchantment was also very clever.

After the interval 100 years had passed so to highlight this we had a group of selfie-taking teenagers outside the overgrown, enchanted house, quite amusing in a way but when coupled with the huge projection of the narration to show time passing it all felt just a little much to me. This whole production made me think of other cultural references (Twilight, Tim Burton and Baz Luhrman's Romeo+Juliet) and I think this perceived lack of originality is what has really coloured my thoughts.

I liked Act Two but again it was very sexual, not sensual, and sometimes I had absolutely no idea what the dancers were trying to tell with their set pieces.  All of it was beautifully choreographed and danced but I lost the story, and again the only totally convincing scenes were when Aurora and her true love - the gardener's boy - danced together. The skill to dance that well and yet appear asleep/enchanted is incredible and at its peak reminded me, favourably, of Romeo and Juliet which is the pinnacle of all the ballets I've seen.

This sounds terribly damning, and I was very tired the night I saw this, but I am pleased I saw it - you can't love everything you see and I didn't (despite this review) dislike this ballet, it just wasn't as good as others I've seen and this made me sad.  I can't wait to see both more ballet in general and more Matthew Bourne ballets.

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