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Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty - Nottingham Review

Matthew Bourne's sumptuous retelling of the classic fairy tale is gorgeously staged in this revival production. Re-inventing Tchaikovsky's ballet into a gothic romp full of mystery and intrigue.

Bourne is always committed to visionary storytelling through his productions and this fast-paced production doesn't really let up but for a couple of moments. It's highly entertaining throughout. 

Ashley Shaw (Aurora) and Andrew Monaghan (Leo) in Sleeping Beauty. Photo by Johan Persson

This gothic romance in four acts begins in 1890 as the King and Queen make a deal with the dark fairy Carabosse to get a child. Although their gratitude to Carabosse is not shown. There is sublime puppetry as baby Aurora causes a bit of trouble to those looking after her in some early comic scenes. After feeling disregarded Carabosse returns to place a curse on the baby whilst some lavishly designed fairies aim to protect her.

Fast forward to 1911 as young Aurora comes of age, and first enters Ashley Shaw who is mesmerising throughout, she's full of desire and a sublime mover. She meets a handsome gamekeeper and whilst their romance feels forbidden as she bats away a few suitors, she happily dances away in the topiary and rose garden of their lavish grounds. All changes as Carabosse's son Caradoc enters, hell-bent on avenging the death of his mother which happened in between the acts. 

There's magnificently engaging movement between the characters including some brilliantly intense movement between Aurora and Caradoc which leads to the infamous pricking of the finger on an enchanted rose and placed to an apparent death. It's only Count Lilac, the King of the Fairies, who saves her by placing her and the yearning Leo under the spell with a vampire bite and takes us to a hundred-year interval.

It's all fairly smooth going in the first act but the story suffers in the second act a little with the thinness of the plot. Ultimately Leo awakens from the spell in 2011 and ultimately saves the day with true love's kiss to awaken Aurora and defeats the evil Caradoc, who unveils a huge body tattoo with the word 'avenge' across his chest, at a glamorously evil ball. 

 Dominic North (Count Lilac) and company in Sleeping Beauty. Photo by Johan Persson

The performances are undeniably world-class and the assembled talent is of the highest quality. Ashley Shaw is outstanding as Aurora, she moves with class and poise and is endlessly engaging. Her light bright energy is the driving force of the production. Shaw matches well with Andrew Monaghan's Leo, who is also tremendous throughout. 

Jackson Fisch has a hoot in delighting as the evil Carabosse and her son Caradoc. Making the most of the costume and makeup design Fisch manages to revel in the nastiness of the roles. Wide-eyed Dominic North impresses as a looming presence as Count Lilac. 

Bourne teams up with his regular collaborators once more with Lez Brotherston's excellent design roots the Gothic world sublimely especially in the variety of costumes that visually enable an audience to differentiate the characters. Visually it's a delight to watch embossed further by Paule Constable's moody lighting that carries the air of good and evil. 

Over the course of 130 minutes, Sleeping Beauty offers magical escapism through sublime dance. If this is your first step into the dance world or if you're a seasoned viewer there are lots to enjoy from the show and its enchanting world. It certainly pricked my interest.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty continues at Nottingham's Theatre Royal until Saturday 28th January with very limited tickets remaining from The show continues on tour until April. Visit the New Adventures website for the full tour schedule and booking information.

Dominic North (Count Lilac) and company in Sleeping Beauty. Photo by Johan Persson

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