Sumptuous, dramatic, eerie and captivating: the list of approving adjectives could go on and on, because Matthew Bourne's new Sleeping Beauty is a many- splendoured thing, an inspired dansical that draws audiences into the dark heart of fairytales and the shining reassurance of happy-ever-after romance.
Clear, persuasive storytelling and also – as his earlier productions of Nutcracker! and Swan Lake proved – an affinity with the broad sweeps and emotional undercurrents of Tchaikovsky's ballet music are Bourne's forte.
This Beauty, with broodingly handsome designs by Lez Brotherston transporting us from 1890 to 1911 and finally to the present day, is possibly the most accomplished work he has done yet.
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We never discover where Carabosse finds the baby the childless King and Queen adopt. But she's feisty – baby antics come alive courtesy of a very animated puppet, while Hannah Vassallo's coming-of-age Aurora not only kicks off her boots to dance barefoot at her birthday party, she kicks over the traces by falling in love with Leo, the royal gamekeeper. What Leo (Dominic North) does after Aurora succumbs to the 100-years sleep plays, with a fine Gothick flourish, to our appetite for supernatural twists of a dark and neck-biting kind. Not that the course of true love runs smooth. But it does dance with a wittily crafted variety of styles from the elegantly classical lines of Count Lilac and the Fairies in Act One – a clever nod to Petipa's 1890 Sleeping Beauty – through the swish hot-to-trot footwork at Aurora's party in 1911, and on to the present-day sizzling-sexy struttings where evil is trounced in a manner fans of TV's True Blood will especially applaud.