Dance review: Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty, Edinburgh Festival Theatre

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It’s easy to see why Matthew Bourne took so long to tackle his third Tchaikovsky ballet. Offering little of the wit that Nutcracker afforded him, nor the emotional intensity of Swan Lake, Bourne has embraced the inherent drama in Sleeping Beauty to keep his audience hooked.

Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty

Edinburgh Festival Theatre

Star rating: * * * *

Although presented in a fairy-tale package, complete with a “Once upon a time…” opening and “…happily ever after” conclusion, we’re taken in a whole new direction in the middle. Tapping into the current zeitgeist, Bourne has introduced a vampire element, not only allowing Aurora’s love interest to stay alive during her 100 year sleep, but paving the way for a dramatic sacrifice scene.

Which may sound a little full-on, but this is Matthew Bourne remember, Britain’s most popular choreographer – and he’s not about to lose that title anytime soon. Sleeping Beauty does exactly what his previous works have done – entertain in an intelligent yet easily digestible way, thus bringing dance to a far wider audience than any other company can reach.

Having once again teamed up with set and costume designer, Lez Brotherston, Bourne’s latest production looks ravishing – taking us from the opulence of a late 19th-century country manor to the deep red velvet of a vampire’s lair.

The choreography in the ensemble moments is a joy, the storytelling mostly crystal clear (aside from a tricky patch in Act Three), the characterisation strong and the romance touching. Throw in a crowd-pleasing baby puppet and Bourne’s got another hit on his hands.