Critique of Matthew Bourne’s “Sleeping Beauty”

1101 words | 4 page(s)

The iconic fairytale of sleeping beauty has captured the imagination of many children worldwide since Charles Perrault wrote it. The story talks of a young beautiful princess who is cursed by a wicked witch to die through pricking her hands on the needle of a spindle. A fairy however reverses the curse and instead proclaims that the princess sleep for over hundred years until she is woken up by a kiss from a Prince. After a hundred years, a king’s son revives the princess and live happily. That is a shortened version of the story; however, this essay will examine one of the dance adaptations in which the story has been featured. Matthew Bourne created this dance adaptation.

Matthew Bourne is known for his eccentricity and though many have criticized his rendition of famous fairy tales, they have not fallen short of delivering on entertainment and on controversy. A story as ethereal as the sleeping beauty has rightfully been rendered in many countless adaptations, all with the same story line and in some cases many directors have used the same props and actors for their screen play and dance adaptations. The risk with having such an astounding number of adaptations is that they eventually dilute the story and make it a little bit too benign. You can imagine when in a single city, under just one year, there are two or more screenings, or dance performances of the same story. This is however not the case when Michael Bourne directed and produced the remake of the ‘Sleeping Beauty’ dance. The ballet dance has evoked controversy much unlike Bourne’s very fiery personality and past works, and this essay will review and provide a sound critique of his rendition of Sleeping Beauty

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Michael Bourne’s Rendition
The dance story begins in 1890, at a time when Romanesque art and music dominates the world, and this enables Bourne to seamlessly fuse the music and satire with the eventual twist, which he gives the tale. The year 1890 is also significant because it is the year the ballet’s premier in st. Petersburg. The baby, named Aurora, born to the king and queen is characterized by a puppet, and Bourne fuses intrigue and comedy from this point forward by painting the young princess as a spilt child eager to learn and to break things. This is a diversion from the quiet and docile version the audience is used to in earlier renditions. The play similarly takes on gothic undertones when the princess is to be christened as the fairies are a mixture of male and female and offer gifts quite unlike the ones in the earlier versions of the story. Instead of being bequeathed with Grace, humility and beauty, she is instead given passion, vivacity and other gifts which frankly betray the feminist boisterous feel of the dance.

Therefore, the princess grows to become a beautiful woman and even in her adolescence, she has the rebellious traits that she displayed in her childhood. Her erratic and boisterous dancing as opposed to the graceful and rhythmic dance of the other characters shows this. The play introduces the audience to new characters such as the gardener, Leo who replaces the prince as the princess’s new love, and also to Caradoc, a dark, handsome rival to Leo. It was Caradoc’s father who cursed Aurora to die from a prick, and it was Caradoc’s thorny rose flower that pricked the princess to occasion the deep slumber. These changes to the script served to give the story a more modern and realistic feel, while still imbuing aspects of deep imagination and modernity.

The twist to the movie helps to explain why the characters have not aged since the princess fell into a deep slumber. Apparently, they have been turned into vampires by the good fairy Lilac who has reversed the evil fairy’s curse. So Aurora’s awakening is aptly moved to the present, that is the year 2011, and from this point henceforth, the dance is very modern. The choreography of the dance has been faulted for being too shabby and not reminiscent of earlier ballet renditions of the story especially those that fully depended on Tchaikovsky’s score entirely. Bourne had to dedicate the dance to Tchaikovsky as a tribute, showing that even though he had massacred the story, he saw it fit to retain aspects of earlier renditions and music, which would still appeal to the audience.

Bourne’s rendition of the story has many changes that can immensely be enjoyed by the modern audience. The sexual innuendos in the dance clearly show a more liberal setting for both the cast and the audience,, something which would have been reviled, just decade s before the sexual innuendo comes in when Aurora is pricked by Caradoc’s black rose and the dance depicts Leo as lying on top of her at the time. The love story is however rushed and somehow more complicated since it involves a love triangle instead of the traditional happily ever after setting the audience is used to. Similarly, the traditional fight between the forces of good and evil is immensely diluted into a love affair between a girl and two guys with opposite personalities.

In essence though the story appears rushed, the entire dance is captivating due to the drama and costumes that are used throughout the play. The costumes change depending on the time in which the time is set. Eventually the dance ends when the couple, Aurora and Leo, is getting married and the cast is fully adorned in gothic attire and even the feel of the music and props show the modernity behind the setting. Overall, the dance is quite refreshing and provides a much welcome edition that would keep many audiences glued to the story of sleeping beauty. The choreography can be explained away as a clash between modernity and pat Edwardian dance styles, which no matter the number of practice and expertise can never mesh together. The nightclub scenes further enshrines the story and seemingly make it a product of a much more modern age. The dance is complete with the casting of the characters that provide a life like feel of the story making it almost feel real. Hannah Vassalo plays Aurora, while Chris Trenfield plays Leo. In conclusion, Bourne demonstrated remarkable bravery in having a modern rendition of the story and these changes though severely changing the story have massively given it a new breath of life and further endeared it to the audience.

  • Jacob and Wilheim. Grimm, Grimm Fairy tales, “Little Briar-rose”

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