15 December 2015

Sumptuous Sleeping Beauty at Sadler's Wells

A recent Christmas tradition, and one that I heartily approve of, is to go and see a Matthew Bourne ballet and this usually mean a trip to Sadler's Wells. Of course there are other occasions and other theatres where his style of dance can be appreciated and I get to as many of those as I can, even when it means going to Wimbledon to do so.

I had been to see Sleeping Beauty almost three years previously and rereading that write-up now it almost reads as if I was damning it with faint praise so I was a little cautious when going to see it again. Being cautious did not extent to missing the show or even going for cheaper seats and so I went for my usual place, the Second Circle, and my usual front-row seat, this time it was A17 and it cost me £32. I had been there or thereabouts before and I like it there.

Sadler's Wells goes for the heavy safety curtain so there is nothing very much to photograph but I took a "my view" shot anyway. The safety rail looks prominent but it was not, I had the camera low to avoid attention and, even so, the bar was still below the stage.

Having seen Sleeping Beauty just the once, and then a few years previously, there was much about the performance that I had forgotten and so could appreciate for the first time again.

What was familiar to me was the Tchaikovsky music and the general flavour of the choreography, and I liked both so I knew that I was in for a treat.

Watching Sleeping Beauty again enabled me to appreciate from of the bigger things that I had missed the first time when trying to catch all the detail. The story was very well told. I like the way that Matthew Bourne tells stories with his dances whereas classic ballet often uses a simple story to stage set dances. The dancing, like the story, was split in two halves, before and after the long sleep. Before the sleep the style was Edwardian tea dance, though with Bourne's unusual movements, and after the sleep the dance was modern. The Sleeping Beauty spent a surprising amount of the time in the air being lifted, carried, thrown and (thankfully) caught.

I appreciated the little stuff again too. Bourne's choreography makes great use of arms, heads and legs to make angular shapes that if somebody on the tube made would make you laugh but here the shapes were joined by the movement to transition between them and the music to set the pace and the mood. The combined package was a thing of beauty. Humour played a part too, as it always does with Bourne.

All the little touches in the story, movement, set and costumes added to the richness of the experience and it is that richness that endears me to Bourne so much.

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