British choreographer Matthew Bourne has created a Sleeping Beauty fairy tale that drips with candle wax and vampire blood and opens its eyes to modern times. Learn more about his bold re-imagining of the Tchaikovsky ballet and enjoy this photo gallery that captures the drama of the production, premiering Friday, April 25 at 9 pm on PBS (check local listings).
The fairies in Bourne’s ballet are wild, gothic supernatural creatures. As godparents, Ardor, Hiberna, Autumnus, Feral and Tantrum present gifts to Aurora, followed by Count Lilac, the King of the Fairies, and leave a protective ring of candles around the baby’s bassinet.
Dancer Adam Maskell performs two roles: the sinister fairy Carabosse and her avenging vampire son, Caradoc. Carabosse casts a death curse upon Aurora, but Count Lilac transforms it to a spell of endless sleep that be broken by a kiss of true love. Thus the dark tale is offset by a love story for Princess Aurora and her childhood friend, the gardener Leo.
Act II takes us to 1911 and an Edwardian summer garden party, where aristocrats and a charming but sinister Caradoc compete for Aurora’s attention.
When Aurora pricks her finger on the cursed dark rose, she joins the world of the Sleepwalkers. Her love, Leo, is accused of carelessly letting her hurt herself on one of his roses.
Bourne has cited True Blood, the vampire-themed television show, as his inspiration for this ballet, which spans from 1890 to contemporary times. Count Lilac, a vampire fairy, takes pity on Leo and sets his fangs on him to grant him the gift of eternal life, so that he can be reunited with Aurora in 100 years.
In Act III, set in 2011, Leo is able to awaken Aurora with a kiss, but she is swept away and forced to prepare for a wedding with Caradoc, who is still plotting her death. Guests arrive for the wedding wearing gothic fairy costumes and fake wings.
As the wedding party builds to a climax, a cloaked figure with giant black wings enters. When the cloak is removed, Caradoc is revealed showing his true nature and carrying a sacrificial knife. Aurora lies down in front of him, as if in a trance. As Caradoc raises the knife, Count Lilac and the Fairies attack him.
Leo at last fully revives Aurora with another kiss on the lips. She wakes, in the arms of the man she has loved for 100 years.