With its Gothic theme, reflected in lavish costuming and majestic sets (both elements designed by Lez Brotherston), and a lush score by Tchaikovsky, “Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty” promises to be a magical evening of fairy tale and ballet.
Instead, on Thursday night LA audiences were presented with cacophonous and insultingly unsubtle show that suffers from heavy-handed, exaggerated gestures and uninspired, pedestrian choreography—more synchronized movement than dance. Minus the grace and ethereal nature of classical ballet and the sensitivity of a live orchestra, “Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty” is a braying and disappointingly earthbound production.
Case in point: after the central character of Aurora (performed well but—oddly—in bare feet by Ashley Shaw) is pricked by the enchanted thorn of a rose, sending her into 100 years slumber (as per Perrault’s fairytale) and another character rocks his arms in an wildly exaggerated fashion to indicate that notion of “SLEEP” to us, you begin to understand that Matthew Bourne does not credit his audience with even the slightest degree of intelligence. All text projected on the scrim is written in massively large script as if we are dummies.
Following a less than impressive Act One is a baffling Act Two, whose storyline—propelled into the 21st Century—is utterly incoherent and impossible to follow, complete with bizarre choreography.
Sleeping Beauty is a legendary ballet by Tchaikovsky and choreographer Marius Petipa, first performed in 1890.
In a stroke of inspired casting, Bourne has cast Tom Jackson Greaves as both Carabosse, The Dark Fairy (who casts the spell) and her son, Caradoc. Greaves is superb, imperially commanding the stage with his magnificent presence and dancing prowess. I could have done without the obvious arm-pit stains that grew under Carabosse’s crimson gown, though… Most un-fairy-like.
Carabosse’s posse of fairies dance well, each demonstrating their differing personalities with their brief solos.
Baby Aurora is presented as a bunraku puppet (expertly controlled by two virtually unseen puppeteers manipulating sticks). A nice device, but Bourne opted to elicit easy laughs with corny baby humor (such as baby scaling the draperies). The audience loved it—I found it grating.
With its frenetic pace and exaggerated gestures, this ballet is all a bit hectic, histrionic and lacks finesse.
“Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty”
Downtown Los Angeles.
For two weeks only, through December 1, 2013.