Matthew Bourne's exciting production is a Wimbledon treat
This retelling of the age old fairy story is a sumptuous feast of music and movement: beautiful dancing, fabulous costumes with colour and light, moons and mirrors all set to Tchaikovsky's glorious score. Totally re-imagined, this isn't the bedtime story of old. It kicks off with once upon a time and ends with happily ever after, but everything in between has been given twist. It's dramatic, sexy, witty and funny, with plenty of silliness, together with some very clever puppetry.
Director and choreographer is the multi-award winning Matthew Bourne who has a strong track in the delivery of exciting and imaginative dance. He's the only British director to have won the Tony Award for both Best Choreographer and Best Director of a Musical. It's a real treat to have one of his productions here in Wimbledon.
The way the story begins is familiar stuff - the king (Glenn Graham) and queen (Nicole Kabera) are struggling to have a baby, so they visit the dark fairy Carabosse (Adam Maskell) who helps them and they have a baby daughter, Aurora (a puppet at first and Ashley Shaw when she grows up). Sadly, in their excitement they forget to thank Carabosse, which annoys her somewhat, so she casts an evil spell over the baby, after that, anything goes.
It cracks along at a giddying pace, with good fairies scrapping with bad fairies and the young humans outwitting their seniors. Sometimes the whole company (and there a lot of them) are on stage, at others it's soloists or pas de deux. There's never a dull moment.
When the princess turns 21 her parents set about finding her a suitable husband and throw a very classy garden party, but it's too late, Aurora has fallen for Leo the gamekeeper (Andrew Monaghan). However, there's a gatecrasher, Caradoc son of Carbosse (also played by Adam Maskell) who gives Aurora a black rose, with poisoned thorns. She pricks her finger, falls asleep and is carried off to a magic castle.
After an interval of 100 years we're in 2011 and the gates to the magic castle (where she's been all this time) are overgrown with weeds. To prove we've jumped to the 21 century a bunch of teenagers wander through taking selfies.
Of course, after 100 years ever body is dead, except Caradoc because he's a witch's son. Gamekeeper Leo has sprouted wings and would like to join the fairies in their dance, but sadly, dressed in his grey trackies and hooodie he can only hover outside the group as they leap around in their white underwear.
Then Caradoc pops up and there's a battle over who's going to kiss the princess her to wake her up. At one stage it looks like a close run thing, but it comes all right in the end with the funniest, cleverest and most unexpected finale I've ever seen in a dance.
It's only on until the weekend, so you'd better be quick if you want a ticket.
By Penny Flood
March 23, 2016