MATTHEW Bourne’s re-imagining of the classic fairytale, Sleeping Beauty, re-awakened at Plymouth’s Theatre Royal this week and was received with a standing ovation and rapturous applause.

I was lucky enough to watch the show on Tuesday and, like the rest of the audience that night, was on my feet at the end, having been held spellbound by the dazzling gothic romance and its beautiful, unforgettable score by Tchaikovsky.

We were all captivated by the wondrous world of magical fairies and vampires, the sumptuous sets and costumes, evocative lighting and masterly storytelling of this timeless folktale.

In a coup for Plymouth, British director and choreographer Matthew Bourne opened Sleeping Beauty’s 2022/23 tour at the Theatre Royal on Saturday, ahead of a seven-week Christmas season at Sadler’s Wells, London.

Directed and choreographed by Bourne, his version of the centuries-old fairytale begins in the halcyon days of the late Edwardian era, moves through to the Victorian Gothic psyche towards the modern day.

The revival of Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty celebrates 10 years since its premiere at Sadler’s Wells in 2012, when it became the fastest selling production in the company’s history.

Bourne sets the first part of the story in 1890, the year in which Tchaikovsky completed his version of Charles Perrault’s classic fairy tale, with Beauty pricking herself on the poisoned rose in 1911 and awakening 100 years later in the contemporary world.

The show opens with Carabosse (Paris Fitzpatrick) the dark fairy providing King Benedict (Danny Reubens) and Queen Eleanor (Stephanie Billers) with the one thing they longed for but could not have, a baby daughter - the lovely Princess Aurora.

Carabosse is angry because she does not receive the recognition she feels she deserves for providing a daughter, and places a curse on the young princess.

Unaware, the baby Aurora sleeps soundly under the watchful protection of her devoted nanny, Miss Maddox (Sophia Hurdley) and the rest of the staff, who adore the playful and mischievous child.

Also looking after Aurora are a group of good fairies – Count Lilac the King of the fairies (Dominic North), Ardor the fairy of passion (Kayla Collymore), Hibernia the fairy of rebirth (Kurumi Kamayachi), Autumnus the fairy of plenty (Christopher Thomas), Feral the fairy of spirit (Shoko Ito), and Tantrum the fairy of temperament (Enrique Ngbokota).

(Theatre Royal Plymouth)

Flash forward to 1911: Carabosse is dead but her son, Caradoc (Paris Fizpatrick) lives on to carry out her malevolent plan.

Aurora (Ashley Shaw) is getting ready for her Coming of Age party and as she sits in her bedroom, rather than thinking about which noble suitor she will meet that day, her thoughts are on the romantic Royal Gamekeeper, Leo (Andrew Monaghan) with whom she is in love.

But before they can make their love official, Caradoc enters the garden where the party is taking place and Aurora pricks her finger on his black rose and slips into a deep sleep.

Fairy King Count Lilac bites Leo and turns him into an immortal fairy vampire to ensure he is around in 100 years to wake Aurora up.

Will Caradoc succeed in his quest, or will Leo and his love for Aurora conquer all to enable to the lovers to live happily ever after?

(Theatre Royal Plymouth)

Led by a stellar cast, which includes several original cast members as well as a young generation of dancers new to this beloved production, the performances are detailed and heartfelt.

Ashley Shaw is captivating as Aurora, her youthful cheekiness in the first half contrasting wonderfully once she wakes from her cursed sleep to be deceived by Paris Fitzpatrick’s nefarious Caradoc.

Other standout performances were given by her Andrew Monaghan as her devoted Leo, and the haunting and sinister Paris Fitzpatrick who, embittered and lonely, guards Aurora’s sleeping body both desiring her and wishing to destroy her.

Lez Brotherston’s sets and costumes are breathtaking and special mention must be given to Baby Aurora, a set of fantastic puppets that really lift the opening scene.

This is a romp of a story from master showman Bourne, who takes a traditional tale and gives it a twist. With its inventive and elaborate plot, loud music, fantastic staging and energetic dancing, this modern dance production will be sure to entertain, exhilarate and enthral audiences from start to finish.

This sumptuous ballet created for Matthew Bourne’s New Adventure’s dance-theatre company’s 25th anniversary and completed his trio of re-imagined Tchaikovsky ballet masterpieces that started with Nutcracker! In 1992 and the international hit Swan Lake in 1995.

Sleeping Beauty will run at the Theatre Royal until Saturday November 19.

The tour will visit 16 venues across the UK until April 29.

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