milton keynes theatre entrance

Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty at Milton Keynes – review

It’s been a while since I’ve been to the ballet, but bought Sleeping Beauty tickets using credit from shows I’d booked that were then cancelled due to Covid. It’s not often I go to Milton Keynes theatre, but I need to go there more – it’s a much more comfy theatre than the older ones like Oxford or some of the London ones. The show run was 10 years on from the original launch of Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty, performed by the New Adventures company.

milton keynes theatre entrance

Milton Keynes Theatre

Milton Keynes theatre is modern and easily accessible for car parking (free after 6pm).  The theatre district includes several restaurants and bars, so it’s good for a complete evening out.

As ever there was a long wait to be able to get into the seats. I sat in the circle, right in the middle, and it was a great view. Offset seating in the rows and a good rake meaning you could easily see the stage even with a full audience.

I was also pleased to see a cast list prominently shown at the entrance. Too many theatres don’t seem to have this readily available unless you’re buying a programme.

sleeping beauty cast list

Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty performance

As ever the dancing was beautiful, Matthew Bourne ballets are an alternative take on traditional stories. In this case, the plot started in the Edwardian era from 1890 onwards, right up to 2011. The main part of the story remains with tweaks throughout. This gothic romance isn’t a traditional ballet, none of the dancers are in pointe shoes.  I did miss that.

Half of the fairies are male, and the Lilac Fairy becomes Count Lilac/King of the Fairies. It was quite hard to see the legs of the fairies during their solos as they were in black tights which were hard to see against the dark stage at that point.  Each fairy provides their gift to baby Aurora through their solos, which were really easy to understand who was giving what gift.

A grown up Aurora already had a relationship with the palace gamekeeper; their pas de deux in the garden at Aurora’s birthday was gorgeous.  If you’re used to the famous Rose Adagio with Aurora being wooed by royal suitors, it’s a totally different more contemporary style, but no less impressive.

sleeping beauty programme image

It’s Carabosse’s son who puts the curse on Princess Aurora, with Count Lilac saving her from death and just putting her to sleep for 100 years.  As the palace is put to sleep, Leo the royal gamekeeper is stranded outside the palace gates. He wakes in contemporary clothes, and it’s he who is determined to find and wake Aurora so they can be together again.

I did get a bit confused with what I think were flashbacks, with the fairies and the princess, but it fell together at the end. I never buy a programme, so it might have been explained in there.

As well as the curse, the romance and violent death of Carabosse’s son, there were also comedy moments. Mainly at the start with baby Aurora and her servants. and a surprising finale which was a little absurd. But of course you need the happy ending, even in Matthew Bourne’s version of the fairy tale.

I do miss the ballet having a live orchestra (which Matthew Bourne performances never have), but the show was very well done and beautifully danced.

I’ve seen his version of The Nutcracker and his incredible Swan Lake, but Sleeping Beauty is also worth seeing.  It’s not one for the really young children, so if you want to take children, make sure you check before buying tickets what age they recommend.

Have you see Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty?

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