Don’t think you like ballet? Go to a Matthew Bourne ballet – you will soon be in love!

Tonight continues the Bourne Obsession as Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty comes to New Wimbledon Theatre

I was going to write a piece on him and his incredible ballets, but I think you can get from the reviews below, how incredible I think his work is. I missed Edward Scissorhands last year so am looking forward to getting the opportunity to see more productions soon!

My only sadness going back over these reviews is the reminder of last year’s terribly sad news that Jonathan Olliver’s passed away. He was incredible and I am extremely grateful I got the opportunity and honour to see him perform. New Adventures created a show celebrating his life in dance which was performed in January this year. A trailer/snippet can be find here.



Get tickets! This is your last chance to see Sleeping Beauty in London! 



Bourne’s new production of Sleeping Beauty has added bite

17 May 2013

Sleeping Beauty

Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury 

In order to complete the trio of Tchaikovsky’s works following on from his triumphant adaptions of Swan Lake and The Nutcracker!, Matthew Bourne is now on tour with Sleeping Beauty – A Gothic Romance.

Ballet veterans and those new to ballet alike, will not be disappointed with this absolutely spectacular production.

Not the most famous of the three and in fact, from what I have previously seen, more of a show piece than a story telling device, Bourne has had to slightly re-imagine the story of Sleeping Beauty in order to do what he does best – tell a magical story through dance.

Using their bodies in a way that doesn’t seem possible to explain unspoken feelings and emotions, these incredible dancers, backed up by Lez Brotherston’s stunning sets and exquisite costumes, draw the audience into their fairytale world and allow a couple of hours of escapism to a world of “happily ever after”.mb4

Bourne’s eerie new gothic fairytale tackles the traditional themes you would expect from Sleeping Beauty and the main story is basically the same as you would imagine.

However, he has added a more supernatural side to this love story and brought it up to date with less classical ballet, a more feisty heroine, hints of modern dance and stunning interpretive dance. Having famously turned the Swans in Swan Lake into an all male cast, he has now added vampires to the story of Sleeping Beauty, giving it a new lease of life.

The story begins in the year that it was originally performed as a ballet, 1890. The King and Queen, unable to have a child of their own, are gifted a baby by Carabosse, the dark fairy. 21 years later, during her coming of age party, she begins to fall for Leo – the Royal Gamekeeper. However, having not been rewarded for her kindness to the King and Queen, Carabosse promises revenge and curses Princess Aurora.

As the princess slips into a 100 year sleep, Leo is left bereft and heart broken. The only option? To be made immortal by one of the vampires and wait for the next 100 years for her to wake. When she awakes from his kiss, Leo is tricked as he is replaced by Carabosse’s son, Caradoc who plans to marry her. But worry not, as in all fairy tales, there is a happy ending.

mb3Each and every dancer on stage was spectacular and every move seemed effortless. However, the stars of the show for me were Tom Jackson Greaves as Carabosse/ Caradoc, Ashley Shaw as Princess Aurora and Chris Trenfield as Leo the Game Keeper.

With endless charisma and oozing evil, Greaves’ performance was completely awe inspiring while the beautiful duets by Shaw and Trenfield as their love grew and they leapt into each others’ arms, felt almost too private and emotional to be watched. The love and pain felt by them was so clear to see in the choreography and was more believable and descriptive than I ever thought a dance could be. How can so much emotion be expressed without a word?

Finally, well worth a mention is the puppet “playing” baby Aurora. Not the usual lifeless doll, it was wonderfully animated by members of the cast creating some very funny moments.

Seamlessly managing to update the dancing to show the travel through time without descending into anything too modern was done successfully but may not be to everybody’s tastes. However, not being what I would call classical ballet, with no pointe work, the dancers often barefoot and up to date costumes, in my opinion, makes this production all the better and more accessible.

Previously, I have seen ballets where the focus is who does the best pirouette, who can leap the highest or whose pointe work is strongest, seemingly without any real regard for the story. However, this is not the case with Bourne’s work. The focus is story telling, immersing the audience in the fairy tale, making them hold their collective breath and becoming completely beholden to the dancers on stage.

I have never felt such an overwhelming urge to get up and cheer at the end of a performance. I didn’t know if there was an etiquette to this at the ballet, but it turned out no one else cared. As the final scene finished, the entire audience erupted and cheered.

I cannot recommend Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty enough and I defy anyone, classical ballet lovers or ballet newbies, not to become completely caught up in the story, the emotions and the marvel of this production.

What’s the best way to do love, lust, desire, devotion, vengeance and vampires? Most definitely and unreservedly, the Bourne way.


From February 2014 Marlowe Spotlight Magazine




Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake – Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury

9 May 2014

Director and choreograher: Matthew Bourne

Music: Pyotr IlyichTchaikovsky

Matthew Bourne made his name telling contemporary versions of the classics; his World War II take on Cinderella and a bold re-imagining of the ballet classic, Sleeping Beauty, cramming what is usually not much more than a show piece, with dynamic choreography and a clear narrative line and most famously his powerful, provocative and totally original interpretation of Swan Lakecomplete with an all-male flock of swans, breaking the boundaries of classic style and fashioning a partnership of ballet technique with modern style Matthew Bourne’s productions are like no other ballet. Little pointe work and not a tutu in sight are the first clues to this not being your typical classical ballet. He creates something completely different, something awe inspiring.

Narratives and storytelling are Bourne’s M.O, and he never scrimps when it comes to this side of things. He is very aware of audiences, his aim is to break down the “language of dance”, create new ballets with wide appeal and win over the public. This was certainly the case with Swan Lake, there was no doubt as to what was going on and, judging by the standing ovation, the audience were definitely won over.

Matthew Bourne's SWAN LAKE. 15-12-2009
Matthew Bourne’s SWAN LAKE. 15-12-2009


The story revolves around a young Prince, emotionally bereft and unsuitable for his public rôle, he torments himself with his failure and inability to perform his royal duties. With little support from his mother, the queen, and craving love and attention he discovers a new world to inhabit and receive the contact and acceptance he desires – almost a modern ugly duckling

For the first forty or so minutes, however, there is not a swan in sight and actually, very little which resembles ballet as you would know it. Having seen some of these dancers before and knowing their skills and grace, I was itching for them to do what they do best. But these first moments were not about just the dance; the story needed to be woven, each individual thread being placed just so to ensure that the audience were completely drawn in and captivated and entranced by the Matthew Bourne spell.  During the early parts of the performance, there are also some wonderfully  comedic moments – the Queen and Prince going to see a ballet with the Prince’s ditzy girlfriend. Matthew Bourne appears to mock classic ballet with its over the top movements and often non-sensical stories.

Finally swans appear. Swan Lake swans usually conjures and image of beautiful graceful women in tutus gliding and twirling across the stage with elegance. Bourne creates a different and actually more realistic version, created by strong, muscular and, for most of the performance, extremely sweaty, men. When the prince approaches the swans, it seems almost like they are a fraternity with an initiation ceremony to fulfil. He won’t be accepted without a fight. They breathe together, they move in unison, almost performing a martial arts kata. They twitch their heads and arch their necks, it is powerful, strong and quite aggressive.  The movements capture the real life version of these beautiful but potentially vicious animals.

There is not a dancer on stage who can be criticised  but a couple of the ensemble stood out; from the men, Luke Jackson was a powerful presence on stage while Katrina Lyndon from the female ensemble was sultry in her princess roles.

And then there are the two leads whose stunning movement makes you hold your breath and feel everything they feel.  Liam Mower’s Prince is clearly suffering emotional torment, battling with his feelings desires and inner thoughts. His movements tug at the audience’s emotions while Jonathon Ollivier’s commands the stage in his role as the formidable and passionate Swan. When the Prince and the Swan dance together, it is mesmerising and beautiful making you hold your breath and feel everything they feel. Matthew Bourne has stated that this is often seen as homoerotic but that surely it is actually just erotic? I didn’t even view it like that; these dances, sex unimportant, moved together beautifully, in harmony with real feeling, telling a beautiful story.

The finale is a climatic extravaganza. The vicious and menacing swans take no prisoners as their jealousy of the Prince becoming the favoured one of their alpha male gets too much and they brutally attack him in his bed. The lighting and set add some incredible extra atmosphere during these moments too. This truly chilling, magnificent and ferocious performance is not to be missed.  It doesn’t feel like your “typical” ballet – it is certainly something quite wonderful and over 20 years since it first appeared at Sadler’s Wells it is still as astonishing as it ever has been. Ballet fan or not, I implore you to go to see any of this truly magnificent choreographer’s work.

Published by Playhouse Pickings

Theatre blog run by Rhiannon; a civil servant, D&D player, sci fi fan, immersive theatre lover and gin enthusiast

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