If you love ballet, or even if you think you hate ballet, you won’t want to miss Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty – A Gothic Romance. With music by Tchaikovsky, you might be tempted to think you’re watching another telling of the classic ballet, but Bourne’ Sleeping Beauty is anything but traditional. Bourne brings new life into the ballet and you can watch it online in the video player below.
Sleeping Beauty – A Gothic Romance is split into four acts. The acts span from 1890 until 2011. The time setting alone gives a contemporary and modern perspective to the story, but Bourne doesn’t limit himself to these changes alone. Sleeping Beauty – A Gothic Romance develops the love story between Princess Aurora and her love Leo, the Royal Gamekeeper. It also shows the sacrifices Leo makes to ensure he is alive when Princess Aurora wakes up. In fact, Leo becomes a vampire.
Sleeping Beauty – A Gothic Romance begins with the dark fairy Carabosse giving a baby (Aurora) to the king and queen. At first Princess Aurora appears on stage as a puppet while the dancers, portraying her nanny and other staff appear on stage. From the opening scene, you can tell that Aurora is an outgoing, curious, and quite possibly a precocious child. She literally scaled the walls as an infant and was a handful for her caretakers to keep up with. Princess Aurora was a curious child and at night, she would sleep in her crib with an open window as the fairies would enter her room.
The fairies presented Princess Aurora with gifts, but the dark fairy Carabosse became angry that the King and Queen weren’t exhibiting the deep level of thanks and gratitude she thought was due her. Afterall, it was Carabosse who gave the royal parents their daughter. As the dancers continue to grace the stage, it becomes clear that Carabosse has now cursed the infant princess. Instead of pricking her finger on a spindle, Carabosse’s curse will involve Princess Aurora pricking her finger on a black rose. The incident will occur when Aurora is coming of age.
Fortunately, the fairy Count Lilac steps in ad ensures that Aurora will sleep for 100 years and will be awoken by true love’s kiss. It is clear from the beginning of Sleeping Beauty – A Gothic Romance that Aurora’s true love is Leo.
The ballet shows the curse being acted out on stage with an older Princess Aurora and Leo appearing faceless. After the dance scene showing the dramatization of the curse, Princess Aurora is seen as a baby in her crib. The good fairies circle Aurora and offer their protection.
The second act of Sleeping Beauty – A Gothic Romance takes place in 1911, when Aurora is 21-years-old. Because the dark fairy Carabosse has died, the royal family mistakenly believe the curse has also died. Carabosse’s son, Caradox, is seeking revenge for his mother. Act two shows the developing love between Aurora and Leo. As Aurora is to get ready for her coming-of-age party, Leo sneaks into her room to bring her flowers and try to steal a kiss. He has to hide from Aurora’s nanny and Queen mother before sneaking back out the window. It is made clear through this scene that Leo is Aurora’s true love and Aurora doesn’t care much about formality.
At Aurora’s coming-of-age party, Aurora receive plenty of male attention from interested suitors. There is lots of dancing and everyone is happy except for Leo, who is filled with jealousy. It seems that Aurora is enjoying the party and attention, but things take a strange turn when one dark haired stranger begins dancing with the young princess.
The raven haired man is actually Caradoc, Carabosse’s son and he has quickly put Aurora in to some sort of hypnotic state. Caradoc has a black rose in his possession that he is trying to persuade Aurora to take.
It begins to rain and the party guests flee the premises, leaving Aurora to find Leo. Leo is jealous and hurt due to Aurora giving attention to the other men. It doesn’t take long for Leo to display his loving affection to Aurora and the two begin dancing. Caradoc planted a black rose on a bench and while dancing with her lover, Aurora picks it up. She pricks her finger on the rose and begins drifting off to sleep. Leo seeks help from the guests but to no avail. Aurora comes to briefly, but then loses consciousness once again. Caradoc appears on the scene and blames Leo. At this point, the vampire fairy Count Lilac appears and puts the palace to sleep. Feeling sad for Leo who is broken hearted over the loss of his true love, Count Lilac bites his neck and turns him into a vampire. This gives Leo the hopeful promise that one day, he will be reunited with Aurora.
Aurora has been in the sleepwalking world for 100 years. She lingers between both realms and is seen almost as Caradoc’s puppet. Caradoc cannot wake Aurora, because she does not truly love him. Meanwhile, Leo who is a growing vampire fairy, now has wings and continually tries to reach Aurora. At one point, Count Lilac gives Leo a key to the castle and he manages to reach Aurora. He kisses her and she wakes up, but Caradoc’s evil fairies take him away. When Aurora awakens, she sees Caradoc and believes he broke the spell.
In Act Four, Caradoc plans to marry Aurora. Caradoc and the guests are dressed in red while Aurora wears white. Do not be fooled into thinking Caradoc loves Aurora. He only wants to avenge what he feels was a wrong to his mother. While Caradoc prepares the wedding ceremony, Count Lilac and Leo disguise themselves as part of the wedding party. While it seems that Caradoc is about to marry Aurora, he sheds his wedding clothes, raises a dagger, and attempts to murder Aurora as if she were a sacrificial lamb. Before he can lower the dagger, Count Lilac rushes to the scene, apprehends Caradoc and begins stabbing him with the dagger. The two wrestle and Count Lilac ultimately defeats Caradoc. Leo rescues Aurora who is still under the spell and is asleep.
Leo kisses Aurora again and she wakes up. There is suspense upon Aurora’s awakening. The spell lifts and she sees her true love, only now as a vampire fairy. Will Aurora accept Leo with his fangs and wings?
She does and the two are back in love and together again. They dance their way to their royal bed where fairies surround and protect them. Sleeping Beauty – A Gothic Romance ends with Leo and Aurora as parents holding a new baby of their own. Their baby has little fairy wings and a mischievous spirit such as the one Princess Aurora displayed as a child.
You can find out more about Matthew Bourne and his New Adventure’s production company at the official site.
— Walsall College (@Walsall_College) February 9, 2017
You can watch the full episode of Matthew Bourne’s award-winning production of Sleeping Beauty below.
[Featured Image by Thirteen PBS]