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Review: Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty – A Gothic Romance, Mayflower Theatre, Southampton

IN its Disney-fied form, Sleeping Beauty is a family-friendly tale of traditional (or tiresomely outdated, if you will) values centred around a witch's over-reaction at being snubbed for a party invitation.

A far older version of the tale has the pair conceive twins before a woman of unknown origin decides the newborns would make a delicious snack.

Acclaimed choreographer Matthew Bourne throws his version somewhere in between: there are equal sprinklings of light and dark here, set to Tchaikovsky's romping score.

Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty: A Gothic Romance – Ben Brown as Caradoc and Katrina Lyndon as Aurora (photo: Johan Persson) (62991459)
Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty: A Gothic Romance – Ben Brown as Caradoc and Katrina Lyndon as Aurora (photo: Johan Persson) (62991459)

It's 1890 and the poor king and queen aren't having much luck producing an heir, so they enlist the help of dark witch Carabosse to move things along.

She delivers little Aurora to the doting pair, but apparently the royal couple aren't grateful enough and Carabosse throws a wobbly and a curse.

Love, tragedy, more curses, an avenging son and a 100-year interval follow in a sensational ballet-contemporary mix.

Star of the first act was undoubtedly the expertly puppeted infant Aurora, scampering across the floor and up the curtains, which had the Mayflower in hysterics.

The child had an element of Trainspotting-ceiling about it, but that added somewhat to the show's darker undertones.

Cordelia Braithwaite as the grown princess was also remarkable, particularly in scenes where she's supposed to be unconscious; she was whipped across the stage ragdoll style, head lolling back and forth. I hope that neck is insured.

Ben Brown plays a fine villain in both Carabosse and her son Caradoc, and he and Paris Fitzpatrick as Count Lilac, King of the Fairies, have some fine snearing face-offs.

A couple of conveyors across the set provided effective dance travelators for the fairies, all of whom left every ounce of energy on stage.

Those who've experienced a Bourne show will find much to love in this reworking. But for those who haven't, prepare to have your socks knocked off.

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