Matthew Bourne, the creator of the modern interpretation of Swan Lake with male swans, is now working on a version of the Sleeping Beauty. Princess Aurora will go into her 100-year slumber in 1911, which means she awakes to her Prince’s kiss in 2011.
Bourne is working with designer Lez Brotherston to re-imagine this classic tale. Brotherston has the fun challenge of showing the passage of time from the 20th to the 21st century through sets and costumes.
This recent article in the Guardian goes into detail about the creative relationship between Brotherston and Bourne; it’s a fascinating look at how they work together to arrive at what we see onstage.
Bourne’s Swan Lake
I was blown away by the psychological drama of his Swan Lake when it came to New York City a few years ago. In addition to being gorgeous, the male swans were menacing in a way that female swans never seem to be. Their danger added such depth to the story’s drama.
I also found the embellished details around the story to be just brilliant, like the way the swans came out of the prince’s bed to attack him while he was sleeping. These were not gentle animals. The pathos of the prince’s mental state was made manifest in the violent aggression of the flock.
Updating the Classics
As much as I love classical ballet, the classics can be challenging for today’s audiences. The helplessness of the female protagonist in particular, is something I have a very hard time relating to. I know I am not alone in wishing for new interpretations that give ballerinas something more substantial to express than their longing for a prince or their desire to be free of a monster. This is where Bourne, with his interest in re-imagining the classics, makes his mark. He dares to see the narratives with new eyes and to rewrite them where he feels they no longer work.
For Sleeping Beauty, it sounds like Bourne has some clever tricks up his sleeve, like imagining Aurora as a bit of a wild child, “a force of nature trapped within the formality of the palace.” And her wild nature may come from her mother Carabosse.
Wait, Carabosse as Aurora’s mother? What? Exactly.
Read the article and keep your ears open for the premier of what is sure to be an expectation-defying interpretation of the old classic. I, for one, cannot wait.