Matthew Bourne is an innovator and pioneer of some of today’s most captivating dance theatre. Famously known for his male Swan Lake and sumptuous Nutcracker! Matthew completes his Tchaikovsky trilogy with Sleeping Beauty, A Gothic Romance.
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A beauty, it certainly is. This classic fairy tale has had the magic touch of Bourne’s imagination, artistry and craftsmanship and blossomed into a story for everyone to fall in love with. While the show goes on at Sadler’s Wells Theatre (until 26th Jan) i-D online met Matthew to talk about historical beginnings, fairytale endings, sleep and beauty.
What inspired you to re-create this classic fairytale? I guess the primal reason is the music by Tchaikovsky. The original story always left me a little cold, whereas I knew I loved the music so it was a good starting point. The fairytale became more interesting to me as I delved into the story and discovered possibilities for new concepts.
What sparked your ideas during the creation of your Beauty? I did a lot of research particularly of the ballet itself (choreographed by Petipa in 1890), Perrault’s original story (written in 1697) as well as the Brother’s Grimm tale of Little Briar Rose. The psychoanalytical and Freudian ideas of the story of “a sleeping beauty” I found very fascinating. The appeal is that the story is full of symbolism of a girl’s journey into womanhood.
I would say what really captivated me was the massive timeline. With Sleeping Beauty falling asleep for a hundred years, [which Bourne has cleverly introduced as the value of the twenty minute interval] it was inspiring to have an idea of journeying through time. Having these different time periods really gave variety and diversity to the design of the show.
I then had to ask myself if Sleeping Beauty (Aurora) had been cursed to sleep for a hundred years and had already met her true love, how would her hero (Leo) stay alive to wake her with true love’s kiss? To be honest, the only answer was to bring in a vampiric element which seemed like good fairytale logic. I am a fan of True Blood but regardless of this it seemed like an obvious choice. It came about for the right reasons, teaming gothic fairies with vampires which were both equally as popular in folklore tales.
What do you wish to bring to your audiences through your revival of Sleeping Beauty? It depends who they are. It may sound odd but we want to entertain (it isn’t necessarily always everyone’s aim). Sometimes that can be misunderstood as sounding like an easy job but there are surprises in this unusual creation. Expect the unexpected.
Do you have a favourite part of the show? It changes a bit. I tend to be drawn to poetic images. I like moments like the panorama when Leo is being led through a starlit sky to his true love, the return to the forest at the end of the show and Aurora walking infront of the travelling moon. I get tingles with those moments. They feel very special and poignant. When they come together with the music it is a simple, sweet unity. Truly beautiful to look at.
Lez Brotherston, designer of Sleeping Beauty has done a truly exquisite job. How did you feel when you saw the show come together for the first time? People think you know what it will be like but with the set, costume and lighting, it suddenly takes on something you never could have imagined. It can be quite an overwhelming experience and I am so grateful to our collaborators: Lez Brotherston (Set and Costume Design), Paule Constable (Lighting Design) and Paul Groothuis (Sound Design). I feel very proud to be working with such brilliant people.
If you could, which role would you most like to perform? Whilst I was performing, I enjoyed playing with extremes. Devilish, nasty or slightly perverse characters were usually more appealing to me as they would have been completely opposite to my natural persona. With this in mind it would have to be the Carabosse/Caradoc part. I generally find dancers fall into two categories, they either like to perform a role which is a version of themselves, or an alter-ego.
Is there a particular place or environment that aides you to dream up your fantastical spectacles? I have a house on the seafront in Brighton- I sometimes can’t quite believe I have it! For Sleeping Beauty, I spent 10 weeks there over the summer to completely immerse myself in the project. The air there is different and as soon as I arrive I breathe a sigh of relief!
Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty is showing at Sadler’s Wells, Roseberry Avenue from 4 Dec – 26 Jan, book tickets sadlerswells.com
Text: Katy Lowenhoff
Photography: Mikah Smilie