Feast on a New Sleeping Beauty

Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty

Photo credit: Simon Annand

Stephanie Meyer fans watch out; there are other undead in town and these ones have klout. Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty, which made its North Carolina debut at Belk Theater, is edgy, entertaining, visually stunning, and modern with a vampire twist. It has depth, drama, and a ton of smoking hot vampires. If that isn’t enough draw, it’s the classic story of Sleeping Beauty. Known and loved by all, there is no guess work with this ballet. I was able to sit back, relax, and soak up the eye-candy in Bourne’s reinvention of the classic Tchaikovsky ballet.

Bourne begins his version of Sleeping Beauty in 1890. At the heart of the tale is still a young princess named Aurora (Hannah Vassallo), the daughter of King Benedict (Chris Trenfield) and Queen Eleanor (Daisy May Kemp). At first unable to conceive, the king and queen were helped by the dark fairy Carabosse (Tom Jackson Greaves in drag).  When baby Aurora is christened amid fairy dancing and happiness, Carabosse is angered that she wasn’t invited and places a curse on the young princess. Jump ahead to 1911 and Carabosse is dead, but her son, Caradoc, lives on to carry out her plan. Princess Aurora is young and beautiful. While she has many noble suitors, she only has eyes for working man Leo, (Chris Trenfield) the royal gamekeeper. Before they can make their love official, she pricks her finger on Caradoc’s black rose and slips into a deep sleep. Luckily, Fairy King Count Lilac (Christopher Marney) bites Leo and turns him into a fairy vampire, allowing the now immortal Leo to camp out for 100 years until the princess is ready to awaken with his kiss. But they still have to deal with Caradoc and the welcomed twists unfold.

With clear characters and background, I enjoyed Bourne’s version of Sleeping Beauty better than Tchaikovsky’s or should I say Disney’s version?  In this version, Aurora doesn’t awake to her lost love only to end the plot there; instead, there is a surprising twist that extends the story line and my interests. By introducing the character of Caradoc, Bourne also inserts conflict that never previously existed.

The cast was full of unique characters. A red velvet vampire caught my eye near the end of the performance and the two, evil, long-haired minions grabbed my attention for more reasons than looking good without a shirt. Vassallo and Trenfield’s nimble bodies melted into each other and rose and fell with the pace of the music. Acutely attuned to every muscle in her body, Vassallo had a control of her movements that I’ve never experienced before. When she was “sleeping” and flung about the stage like a rag doll, I sat wide-eyed, awe-struck, and amazed. Her movements were fluid, defying the restrictions of bones and muscle. I envied the childlike freedom that she portrayed; she brought life to a sleeping beauty.

The century time frame allowed Bourne to utilize different eras of dance. The waltzes and the final contemporary scene, playing host to the above mentioned red velvet vampire, are particular favorites. I only wish the costumes were more revealing to allow a better view of the movements. Vassallo’s costumes, while visually stunning, creating a flowing vision, hid her legs and the precision of her movement.

The classic fairy-tales have captured my attention and the original versions hold a special place in my heart but Sleeping Beauty was always lacking substance. Bourne’s version fills in the blankets yet keeps enough of the original to remain legendary.

17 thoughts on “Feast on a New Sleeping Beauty

  1. I was working in southern England in the late 80’s, early 90’s (so last century) and had never been to a ballet before until I went with a group from work. We saw Swan Lake in Covent Garden, London, performed by the English Royal Ballet with music by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. A sumptiously costumed and consummately performed production. I saw a few more ballets while there, including a couple in Russia on a visit. Quite a fascinating art, not to mention a combination of grace and strength in the dancing. I don’t see that Bourne’s production is booked for Denver yet but I’ll keep an eye out for it. (M’lady and I saw the very non-ballet Book of Mormon in Denver last Sunday. OMG!! I had heard it was raunchy but that’s putting it mildly. Good thing I’m not easily flustered.)


  2. I saw this production of sleeping beauty by Bourne last Christmas in London and I loved it too so much! I’m a big fan of Bourne’s work and his interpretation of classical ballets is always awe inspiring! If you ever get to see his version of Swan Lake or the Nutcracker make sure you take it!


  3. Wow awesome visuals without being quite ‘Anne Rice’ and her version of lust, innocence and debauchery but you have honestly made me want to go and see this version. A friend of mine took me to a musical last year (Les Miserables). I am so glad she did, because they did a pretty fair job of making all characters interesting. Even the protagonist elevated his game to where you wanted him NOT to commit suicide.

    I love originality. That version of Sleeping Beauty seems to get that as well.

    Thanks for the review.
    Larry aka Foghorn


  4. Well, damn, this sounds incredible! Any idea if it’s coming to Australia any time soon? I like the vampire twist. That could be because I’m reading Dracula at the moment….

    I do like vampire stories.


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