Sleeping Beauty, Wales Millennium Centre

February 1, 2023 by

Matthew Bourne’s vamp camp caper is back. This Sleeping Beauty, with designs by Lee Brotherston, is a bouncy and fun Victorian Gothic romp set to some of ballet’s most exquisite music from Tchaikovsky.

To get the feel of the show think of the cult of teen vampire movies that hopefully are now just a pre-Covid phenomenon and mix it with Lady Gaga (think of the 2009 song Teeth from The Fame Monster album and the ultra-campy vampire video from Haus of Gaga).

It does feel aesthetically rather dated and some imaginative changes to the direction which would have not affected the dance itself would have given it some relevance, rather than just another take on a good versus evil trope. Say, the Lockdown Legacy, with Aurora representing the world shutting down for two years and mass vaccinations, rather than a rose prick, with life slowly resuming but with some dark lingering legacies.

The show remains very varied with some gimmicks that seemed to have pleased the audience, such as the creepy baby puppet being manipulated to pretend to crawl around and respond to the dancers. Unfortunately,  it all seemed too Chucky to me. Again, people laughed at it clearly went down really well with most of the audience. The use of a moving floor so dancers could glide worked well at first but was used too often. The choreography of our hero (one of two I would argue) running on the spot was another nice gimmick but after a couple of minutes, it threatened to reduce dance to farce.

Speaking of heroes, I am amazed it is still a story of a rather wet girl who is awoken not only by one man but then saved from being sacrificed by another (admittedly a fairy, the King of the Fairies, danced with grace and strength by Dominic North) while she vapidly limps around.

Bourne is at his best choreographing for fit young men and ensemble work. You sometimes think the women just get in the way and must be accommodated somehow. This applies here to Aurora and the show should really be called the Gamekeeper gets his Gal. Poor Aurora gets few memorable dance movements despite starting off as quite the energetic, rebellious young princess. Yes, she bounds around after her hunky young gardener Leo, danced energetically by Stephen Murray, rather than the foppish Edwardian pretty boys but that all disappears once she gets that prick. As Aurora, Katrina Lyndon was charming and when able to do so expressed her character with finesse.

The last time the show was here it also sold extremely well. Then I commented how it was a shame the Mariinsky, which had recently been in town, had not sold that well. Little did we know long gone would be the days of great classical ballet companies coming to Wales Millennium Centre.



Fortunately, the show has fine dancers, and the choreography is performed excellently and as exquisitely. Sadly, there is little real emotion in the dance and the sumptuous, heart-breaking music is not matched with that choreography. It is more teenagers bouncing around and, while cute and entertaining, lacks depth. Much of the dance vocabulary is mechanical and cold but it is executed perfectly by this glorious ensemble of dancers. Romantic scenes are heavy and flirtatious rather than uplifting and sweeping. It is a pleasing on a light level, M&Ms rather than Hotel Chocolat. Having said, it is nearly always fully engaging and interesting – and also certainly enocurged me to want to see the traditional ballet yet again.

Yes, the show drags at times,  especially long early second half scenes. All becomes worthwhile largely thanks to the powerful characterisation with good choreography splendidly executed by Paris Fitzpatrick playing the two roles: Carabosse, the dark fairy that was not invited to the party despite having given the gift of a child to the royals, and then son Caradoc. This elegant, black winged fairy cleverly wins Aurora but there must be more twists before the denouement.

The visually delightful show is set in the year the score was written, 1890, in a Russia that would shortly see both the horror of war and the fall of Romanov dynasty. Yes, Aurora’s parents look like Nicholas II and Alexandra Romanov, and cleverly again seem over-protective parents. The young haemophiliac Tsaravich Alexei Nikolaevich almost literally had to be wrapped in cotton wool to keep him alive as his fate was also dependent on what flowed through his veins – although the monster of far left ideology finally spilt the blood of his and his family and countless millions others. Then we are in the 20th/21st century for the big awakening. So we have contemporary gawky tourists and their cringe-making teenager children, and our hero is now in modern attire, but, well, so what? A narrative needs to be more than moving from crinoline to chinos.

Like Lady Gaga the audience certainly Got their Vamp, and it is absolutely a two-hour frolic-filled entertainment that is well worth buying a ticket.

Yet, my dance fangs are still holding out for some more red-blooded classical ballet fare.

Until February 4.

Photography: Johan Persson





  1. It seems that WMC have abandoned classical ballet altogether.Why?.
    Was not part of its remit to present all the performing Arts.
    There also seems to be less Opera.!.

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