Kudos to Lez Brotherston. Visually, this has to be one of New Adventures’ most resplendent shows to date. And at a time when so many are concerned with the shortfalls in funding it’s a real pleasure to immerse oneself in the decadence of such a lavish setting. Golden pillars, heavy brocade and satin sheets make up the scenery, while costumes are an orgy of fin-de-siecle lace ruffles, Edwardian velvet bodices and gothic black lace.
Dominic North (Leo) and Hannah Vassallo (Aurora) in Sleeping Beauty at Sadler's Wells, London Photo: Tristram Kenton
Aurora’s first appearance onstage is surreal if not utterly terrifying - the Trainspotting baby has arisen and scuttled up the red velvet curtains, should you need help imagining the scene. That said, the puppetry is sophisticated and the demanding little baby Aurora, taking gifts from the dancing vamps, is captivating.
In a mash-up of balletic heroines, Hannah Vassalo plays her as a vivacious young Juliette-type character, skittish and bright, then plunges into a Giselle-esque mad scene before nodding off for a hundred years.
Bringing the action from 1890 to present day, the re-imagining of the plot is pretty wild, but it works, especially in today’s market of glamorous vampires, from Twilight to True Blood. If you analyse the storyline too much, you could drive yourself mad. Suffice to say, the narrative is strongest in Act I. In Act II, things take a turn for the utterly bizarre culminating in the end of Carabac, and the spawning of a halfbreed babyvamp. ‘Nuf said.
While the music is recorded, visual references highlight bits that you might think you haven’t heard before - some kind of trickery on Bourne’s part that makes you really take notice of this oft’ heard score.
Alongside the newness of the music, focus is drawn further from the madness and mayhem of plot intricacies and dance analysis by the beauty of the setting. The depth perception of Brotherston’s mansion on a hill side in the setting sun; a huge stone angel, slumped behind couples dancing in bright croquet whites; even the downlights are adorned with gothic decoration.
While there are weaknesses in the choreography (flexed feet and cheeky Petipa references do not an avante garde practitioner make) - it doesn’t really matter. Ultimately, with the courage and imagination of Bourne combined with Brotherston’s vision, quite frankly, who cares what the dancers are doing?
We are too busy being swept away in the romp and circumstance of this surreal gothic adventure.