Bristol Theatre News

Review: Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty at the Bristol Hippodrome

Hannah Vassallo as Aurora. Photo: Simon Annand
Hannah Vassallo as Aurora. Photo: Simon Annand


Choreography from the heart and a strong cinematic vision are the driving forces behind this dark telling of Sleeping Beauty.

It is the latest ballet to be tackled by Matthew Bourne and the supremely talented New Adventures company. Billed as a Gothic Romance,  Lez Brotherston’s sumptuous sets and costumes draw us into Ladybird fairytale illustrations. It’s a dark fantasy world. The plot we are most familiar with is given depth with twists and turns.

As usual, there is plenty of humour and characterisation providing lighter moments. Bourne has a real talent for balancing out the right amount light and darkness in his stories. He also gives us a world of make believe with one foot still firmly planted in reality.

At times, the dancers are almost upstaged by the delightful puppet babies, who interact with the cast in a charming way.

Typically with Bourne Ballet, the general conventions are done away with. There are no pointe shoes or men resigned to simply lift women. This frees up the dancers to do what they do best – dance. And dance they do, with an energy and passion that is sublime.

Princess Aurora is danced by New Adventures regular Hannah Vassallo. She starts off as a cheeky young miss, enjoying the loving attentions of  Leo the Gamekeeper and the man who eventually manages to wake her from her sleep. Vassallo’s dancing is mesmerising and a joy to watch. Indeed, the entire company is made up of extremely talented dancers.

The Company of Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty. Photo: Simon Annand

The brooding Adam Maskell plays the Dark Fairy and in turn, the son of the Dark Fairy. Scenes and choreography here echo the Black Swan ballroom scenes from Bourne’s Swan Lake. Maskell commands the stage with his presence, culminating in a dramatic scene not a million miles away from Mozart’s Don Giovanni.

Other stand out performer is Liam Mower as King of the Fairies, Count Lilac. He oversees the entire story, bringing about a happy ever after of sorts. Perhaps this is the first telling of Sleeping Beauty that finally puts it in perspective. Aurora falls asleep for 100 years just before the interval. When we come back it’s 2011 and it makes us sit up and realise we have never seen in context before. Despite the change in date, none of the magic is lost. Mower is guiding the now fairy gamekeeper to save his princess.

There’s nothing Disney about it, in fact, the ending is practically satanic. Eventually, Aurora and Leo are reunited in the world of Fairies, complete with their own flying fairy baby.

The dreamy  ending is beautiful, surreal and completely fairytale. Embrace it.

Running until Saturday 11 May 2013 at the Bristol Hippodrome

Tickets from £16.90