REVEIW: Ballet goes to the dark side

Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty, reviewed by Hannah Richardson

Friday, 29th January 2016, 10:01 am
Updated Friday, 29th January 2016, 10:04 am
SLEEPING BEAUTY by Matthew Bourne. Picture: Johan Persson

If you love ballet and you’re not of a timid disposition, get yourself down to Milton Keynes Theatre, where quite the most exciting ballet performance I’ve ever seen is on stage until Saturday night.

Matthew Bourne’s version of Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty bears little relation to the sacharine fairytale most of us know and love from childhood.

This performance takes ballet to the dark side, with a frankly creepy villain, fantastical funky fairies and a strong element of the grotesque.

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SLEEPING BEAUTY by Matthew Bourne. Picture: Johan Persson

Bourne’s version of the 100 years’ sleep takes Aurora to a dreamlike Land of the Sleepwalkers, and then beyond, to a sinister cult-like world where an ominous end appears to loom.

But the show is far from Grimm and grisly all the way.

There was so much joy in this performance, it’s hard to know where to start.

Delight was in abundance, starting with some bewitching puppetry as the infant Aurora crawled round the stage, hiding and peeking, interacting with the servants and even climbing the curtains.

SLEEPING BEAUTY by Matthew Bourne. Picture: Johan Persson

Then the amazing Ashley Shaw, as the young Princess Aurora, was simply poetry in motion.

Her slightness and her lightness of movement perfectly captured the carefree child-woman, and her pas de deux with Dominic North, as Royal Gamekeeper Leo, were a beautifully lyrical portrayal of young love.

Aurora spends an awful lot of time in the air, and this dancer had the talent of appearing to float, as if absolutely weightless .

The villain, Carabosse/ Caradoc, danced by Tom Clark, was superbly evil, and deeply creepy, with a highly disturbing element of sexual menace.

SLEEPING BEAUTY by Matthew Bourne. Picture: Johan Persson

(There were a lot of children in the audience on Tuesday night, and I did wonder how appropriate the content was for a young audience – but that’s an issue for their parents, not me.)

Whether light and lyrical or dark and fearful, with marvellous touches of humour thrown in, the quality of the dancing and the characterisation throughout the whole show was superb.

A feast for the eyes and a workout for the emotions – what more could you ask of a performance?

Ticket availability is limited. Call 0844 871 7652 or visit

SLEEPING BEAUTY by Matthew Bourne. Picture: Johan Persson