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Unorthodox Beauty is a joy to the eye; REVIEW: Review: Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty, WMC, Cardiff.

Matthew Bourne is arguably one of the biggest names in British dance. Known for his inventive interpretations of classic tales, he completed his trilogy of Tchaikovsky's famous ballets just in time for his company's 25th anniversary with a gothic reworking of Sleeping Beauty.

From the outset, it was clear this was going to be a typically unorthodox production. The lights fell and an ominous dark fairy silhouette took centre stage amidst thunderclaps and the wails of a newborn child.

Bourne kindly projected key plot elements and dates onto the curtain at regular intervals, which added to the traditional "storybook"-style experience.

A slightly clunky start featuring a creepy puppet child and what appeared to be an extended game of charades was soon remedied when the King of the Fairies and his posse swept in and set the stage alight with their sumptuous costumes and flamboyant variations.

Hannah Vassallo's Aurora was a revelation, and as she flipped between childlike exuberance and girl on the cusp of womanhood, it was hard to imagine anyone better suited to the role. Her consort, played to perfection by the accomplished Dominic North, threw her around with such ease that at times she seemed to be defying gravity.

Though the scenery and costuming is impeccable, Bourne's greatest skill is his ability to make the audience feel as though they're not merely spectators of this twisted fairytale, but participants.

The attention to detail brings each and every scene to life. Whether it's a shrug of exasperation from the young princess' nanny or a couple whispering to each other in the stage corner, the attention is drawn to various snippets of background activity without overshadowing the dancers in the spotlight. In particular, Vassallo and North's stunning rose garden duet managed to capture the blossoming of young love in all its bounding, teasing glory and elicited more than a few rogue tears from fellow audience members.

By relaxing the constraints commonly found in a classical ballet and concocting a macabre yet heart-rending version of the original tale, Matthew Bourne and his company have excelled themselves once again. Sleeping Beauty is a must-see.

Continues until Saturday | Betti Hunter
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Mar 7, 2013
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