16-20 February 2016
Reviewed by Melanie Allen
I arrived at the Liverpool Empire on a freezing cold blustery night to a jam packed auditorium. Going to the ballet is a new thing for me, I’ve only been once and I was a bit confused as to what was going on. However, with this ballet, I found it very easy to follow due the amount of acting as well as dancing.
Everyone thinks they know the story of Sleeping Beauty, but this gothic version has a slight twist. The story starts in 1890 where a lively baby Aurora is found on the doorstep of the palace of the King and Queen who are unable to have children. The puppetry of the baby is quite cleverly done and hugely amusing. This is where we are introduced to the delightful good fairies and the evil Carabosse, the dark fairy (Tom Clark) who puts a lifelong curse on Aurora. The sumptuous costumes of the dancing fairies brings colour to this dark scene, and the differing fairy characters is shown through the weird and wonderful individual dances that they perform.
In the next Act, 1911, Aurora (Ashley Shaw) is coming of age and her love is blossoming for Leo, the Royal Gamekeeper (Chris Trenfield). Believing the curse dies when Carabosse dies (Tom Clark), the King Benedict and Queen Eleanor (Glen Graham and Daisy May Kemp) hold a garden party for Aurora to find a suitor. Leo and Aurora sneak off for secret smooches closely watched by the son of Carabosse, Caradoc, who gives Aurora a black rose that pricks her and sends her to sleep for a hundred years. The love that Leo feels for Aurora is so true and powerful that he has to find a way of still being alive in one hundred years to be with her. He gets the King of the Fairies, Count Lilac (Christopher Marney) who just happens to be a vampire, to bite him to make him eternal. Again, we are treated to more beautiful but dark and mystifying vampiric scenes.
In the final 2 Acts, we are brought into present day (almost, the first is the year 2011) when Caradoc is trying to wake Aurora. The sleepwalking dancing scenes again are almost comic as the sleeping Aurora used as a puppet to try to dance with her and rouse her. When her true love, Leo eventually finds her and kisses her, she is woken from the curse. As with any Fairytale, they all obviously live happily ever after and the final scene is much like the first scene, as if the tale has come full circle.
It helped I knew the story of Sleeping Beauty – but this performance is nothing like the Disney film and doesn’t even try to be – it’s more like the Brothers Grimm version. I would highly recommend going to see this ‘soft porn’ ballet before hitting the ‘hard core’ ballets like Swan Lake. Fantastic costumes spanning different eras, hugely entertaining dancing and amusing likeable characters, this ballet has it all.
Tickets cost from £10 to £42.90 (plus £2.85 transaction fee).
Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty is at the Liverpool Empire until 20 February 2016. For more information or to book tickets click here or call the box office on 0844 8713017.
Liverpool Empire Theatre, Lime Street, Liverpool, Merseyside, L1 1JE | 0844 8713017