Tag Archives: Matthew Bourne


Ballet, based on original story and film by Tim Burton
Adaptation: Caroline Thompson
Devised and directed by Matthew Bourne
Music; Danny Elfman and Terry Davies

 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

Making a welcome return to Cardiff, Edward Scissorhands is arguably not only the most hauntingly beautiful of Bourne’s innovative and unique productions but the most in depth and soul searching. Brought up to date with new music, the story of a boy that is different and as a result suffers jibes and discrimination, Bourne infuses this new production with an added poignancy cognisant with contemporary mores and awareness of mental health issues.

Based around the central character of a boy with an abnormality which causes him to face problems in the world – a world unknown and alien to him – Edward Scissorhands is complex and far from easy to relate in balletic form, although Bourne can be forgiven for the occasional grunt or shout. Created by an eccentric inventor, Edward is left unfinished with elongated scissors in place of hands when his creator unexpectedly dies, leaving him to face the challenges of an unknow world. As with all Bourne ballets, the dance is an amazing mix of classical and modern plus maximum use of mime, danced with empathy and expertise by Bourne’s New Adventure Company.

On Press night, the lithe and lissom Liam Mower, who back in 2015 first danced the central role of Edward – arguably one of the most difficult roles in Bourne’s diverse repertoire. – brings to the stage a knowledge and perception of the character, targeting the highs and lows of a young man who is desperate to be accepted despite fighting against prejudice and suspicion.

Not only do the principal dancers shine, but the whole of Bourne’s young and enthusiastic New Adventures Company show expertise in the different dance genres, segueing seamlessly from one to the other, under the tuition of New Adventures Take Part Creative Director Kerry Biggin who on opening night in Cardiff, danced the principal female role of Peg Boggs, the young housewife who befriends Edward. Opposite her, Dominic North dances a self-assured Bill Boggs.

Bourne’s choreography, inclusive of both the lifts and Grandes jetés of classical ballet and bang up to date acrobatics of street dance (seen also in Bourne’s ballet The Car Man) is in this respect unique. Lez Brotherston’s atmospheric set designs make an important contribution to the success of this ballet, aided and abetted by Howard Harrison’s atmospheric lighting. Worth noting that Brotherston also designed the great costumes.

Overall, a ballet that with a dark element yet with comic touches throughout that lighten the load. Does Edward overcome the problems of the title? It would be a spoiler to tell!

Review: Matthew Bourne’s Romeo + Juliet, Wales Millenium Centre

Reviewed by Luke Seidel-Haas

ROMEO AND JULIET by Bourne , Director and Choreographer – Matthew Bourne, Designer – Lez Brotherston, Lighting – Paule Constable, Rehearsal Images, Three Mills, London, 2019, Credit: Johan Persson/

Two household’s, both alike in dignity. In fair Verona where we lay our scene”. So begins Shakespeare’s 1597 tragic love story of star crossed lovers. Intended as a radical reinterpretation of the classic tale, Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures company does away with the feuding families, the setting and indeed many of the characters. Instead the tragedy is set within the confines of the “Verona Institute” – some form of psychiatric ward in the not too distant future. And rather than being from rival Montagues and Capulets, the eponymous lovers are two patients being treated in the institute.

Stripping back the characters and removing the text forces you to concentrate on the connection between the characters, and in that aspect Bourne’s production is excellent. the chemistry between Romeo (Andy Monaghan) and Juliet (Seren Williams) is beautiful; their moment of meeting at the party and subsequent coming together crackles and fizzes with excitement. As they weave around each other and intertwine you feel their passion, all sound tracked brilliantly to Prokofiev’s score. Their romance is the highlight of the piece, with it’s devastating ending heartrendingly performed by the pair.

Similarly impressive is the ensemble cast. As part of New Adventure‘s endeavour to nurture the next generation of dancing talent in the UK, the whole show was cast from open auditions nationwide, and at each venue on the tour six local dancers take up place in the ensemble. It is testament to their talent and the hard work of Bourne’s creative team that they blend seamlessly in with the ‘permanent’ cast.

Less convincing is the overall concept for Bourne’s piece. Romeo and Juliet has been reinterpreted in different ways ever since it’s creation. Each interpretation can reveal fresh or different perspectives, from Baz Luhrman’s film with guns set on Venice Beach to the 1957 film West Side Story highlighting the violence between rival gangs. Yet here the interpretation falls flat. Rather than rival gangs or families, the Verona Institute is divided into girls and boys. Each are generally kept apart by officious looking guards and officers, yet are allowed to interact. The two sides don’t appear to hate each other and the only obvious tension between them is sexual tension. As a result the drama has to come from a prison guard, playing the equivalent to the Tybalt role. This change in dynamic removes much of the fuel which creates the drama in Shakespeare’s script.

The other issue with Bourne’s Romeo + Juliet is the choice of location. Set in a mental institution, the cast are subjected to medication, examination and strict exercise regimes. Their movements vary from uptight and restricted in the presence of authority to wild and passionate when let loose. Yet the subject of mental health isn’t really tackled or explored. Why have these young people been institutionalised? What help are they receiving while inside? A cynic might think that the setting was chosen to tie in with the increasing awareness of mental health, and to tap in to the surrounding zeitgeist. However, in doing so did they consider how it looks to then show people with mental health problems rocking backwards and forwards before ultimately killing each other or themselves?

As a piece of modern dance, Bourne’s production is a triumph. The choreography is dazzling, the music and score have been adapted from the original with a pared down orchestra by Terry Davies to great effect and the ensemble work from the cast is excellent. Yet sadly as an overall piece of work it doesn’t feel fully thought through with regards to how the reinterpretation changes the dynamics of the piece or intent behind it. Excellent choreography and performances, hampered by issues with the interpretation.

Matthew Bourne’s Romeo + Juliet is running at the Wales Millenium Centre until the 22nd June 2019.

Review: Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella by Sian Thomas


 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Last March I was lucky enough to have a relative key me into ballet. I saw Matthew Bourne’s “The Red Shoes”, and when I was invited to see his take on Cinderella, I already knew I was bound to have a wonderful time – and I did. Though The Red Shoes will always harbour a soft spot in my heart because it was my first ballet, I think it’s safe to say I liked this one much more. First of all, as a novice, I think it’s pretty important that this time, I knew what was going on. The story of Cinderella does not escape me even as it harbours a few changes (like being set in London 1940 and having a war theme, and Cinderella’s family being bigger than I remembered).

Costumes were incredible, and I think by “costumes” I mean “Cinderella’s dress”, because if we’re being honest, I was excited to see what it would look like as an audience member, rather than in pictures and pamphlet photos. And it was stunning; truly. Even her costume before the dance was lovely. I’m always a fan of flowing skirts and dresses, so seeing the way they moved as people danced was such a treat to my eyes. So, in that vein, the dancing was incredible. Still, a year later I don’t know much (or anything) about ballet or dancing in general and my eyes continue to be unaware of mistakes and unable to form any critiques (not that I have any at all, actually).

When I left The Red Shoes, I remember I came out on a high, as if I could suddenly redirect my life even though it was 10pm and I would be going home to bed afterwards. The same high followed me out of the theatre after Cinderella. An odd kind of high, one that left me sitting quietly and thinking and reflecting and just trying to figure out what words I would use to really show how much I loved this performance. I couldn’t find many. It’s definitely a “you have to see it to understand” kind of thing (which is why I’m going a step further to place some links here: in case anyone becomes interested in going).

Five stars because it really was wonderful and I’d love to see it again and I know I would enjoy it just as thoroughly every single time.

Video Review of Matthew Bourne’s “Cinderella” at the WMC, Cardiff by Roger Barrington

 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)





The interview excerpts of Sir Matthew Bourne are copyright New Adventures Production.

If I have inadvertently used any other copyrighted material, please let me know – I shall be happy to acknowledge the owner or remove.



Matthew Bourne’s ballet, “Cinderella” is currently playing at the WMC until 7th April.

It provides a scintillating experience of creative development of a familiar story. Set in the London Blitz of WW2, this is not a gimmick, but a version that works on every level.

Cinderella is pretty much as you would expect, wicked step-sisters in tow, but there is no Fairy Godmother. Instead you have a male character called The Angel who guides Cinderella for good and bad in order that she fulfills her destiny.

Instead of a handsome prince, you have Harry the Pilot. The RAF, recent victors in spoiling the Luftwaffe’s attempt to pave the way for the Nazi invasion of Britain, were the glamour boys of the Armed Forces. Actually. they were known as The Brylcreem Boys due to the way they used the cream to obtain a smooth look with hair in total control.

The Ball scene, is re-invented in the real life venue of the Cafe de Paris, which was a venue where chic young people met and danced the night away, irrespective of whether there was a air-raid being enacted overhead. On the 8th March 1941, the club received a direct hit, killing and wounding over a hundred people.

The dancing is as polished as you would expect from a Matthew Bourne work. He is the director and choreographer and together with his lighting designer Neil Austin and set and costume designer Lez Brotherston, conjour up a magical two and a half hour show of countless memorable visual delights.

Music is recorded, but played by a specially commissioned orchestra, over 80-strong, named the Cinderella Orchestra, and it is played in Sensurround which makes you feel that they are present.

Prokofiev’s music is delightful and all the sums add up to a wonderful work of creativity.

Irrespective of whether you like ballet or classical music, there is enough theatricality in this show to last you a very long time, and I unreservedly recommend it.

Continue reading Video Review of Matthew Bourne’s “Cinderella” at the WMC, Cardiff by Roger Barrington

Review Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty by Bethan Hooton


On the 26th of April, I was lucky enough to see Sleeping Beauty at the Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff. I haven’t really seen a ballet performance, besides the odd Nutcracker performance at Christmas, so I didn’t really know what to expect. I was absolutely blown away, it was incredible.

I love the Disney interpretation of Sleeping Beauty, but I think I found my favourite in this performance. It followed a similar structure, but it was so unique. The fact that the Princess didn’t fall in love with the prince was a breath of fresh air. I also liked the fact that the gardener and the Princess were already in love. It can be sluggish sometimes if you watch two characters fall in love. My favourite part would be the fact that the evil queen died before the curse came true. It was the son who made sure that it happened, and I just found it so interesting. It was different. The story was in the gothic genre and as I have studied it, I loved watching what aspects of the gothic were in the performance. It was dark and eerie. You kept wondering what was going to happen next, even though you knew how it would end up.

Ballet is such a beautiful form of dance, each move had such grace and elegance to it. I could not take my eyes off of the performers. I liked how each character had a performance that was unique to them, so you could define between each of them. As ballet is silent, the performers had to express so many different emotions through their performances and they did not disappoint! You could feel the emotions they were feeling, especially the Queens when Sleeping Beauty was put to sleep. It was almost as if you could hear the words that they weren’t saying. They are all incredibly talented.

The set was simple and sweet. There was not too much on the stage at one time, but you still got the feeling of elegance within the castle, and you got the sense that this was a gothic love story. The costumes were just incredible! They were so detailed, and unique to everyone. Each Faery had a different costume so you knew which was which. They reflected the personalities of each character, which helped you understand more about the story and what was happening. They also reflected the gothic nature of the story and the fairytale elements.

I loved this production and it definitely has inspired me to go see more ballet. Whilst it was confusing to begin with, it wasn’t long until I understood what was going on. The different interpretations were really interesting to me as both a literature student and someone who loves going to the theatre. I was left speechless when it finished. I recommend people who love the story of sleeping beauty, ballet and theatre to go see it.

(Although I do recommend not taking someone under the age of 10 as there are parts which could be disturbing.)

Review Sleeping Beauty Wales Millennium Centre by Julie Owen-Moylan


We are so used to the Disney versions of our traditional fairytales that we forget they come from a dark place. Tales of babies being cursed at birth, young women being locked away or made to sleep for 100 years. I am, it has to be said not a natural lover of ballet. I sometimes find it a little sterile for my personal tastes, however there is something about Matthew Bourne’s productions that I absolutely adore.

The theatre is plunged into darkness, a crack of thunder sounds and the menacing outline of Carabosse appears, played superbly by Adam Maskell. This is a lavish production, a return to the gothic roots of this fairytale. Bourne takes us on a journey from 1890 ( the year this ballet was first performed) through to the present day. It’s a twisting turning adventure through a dark ride. From the birth of the baby Aurora and her subsequent spiriting away to an underworld where she sleeps for 100 years, everything is beautifully choreographed. There is not one wasted movement. The thing I particularly love about this production is that the stripping away of some of the traditional elements of ballet puts the dancer’s skills totally in the spotlight. I can see the muscular physicality of their movements, the sheer hard work of their effortlessness, the way they communicate with every single part of their bodies. It is a stunning feast of dance and the dancers themselves are superb. The title role is played with elegance and power by Ashley Shaw and having watched her on stage I can only be excited at the prospect of her taking the lead in Bourne’s next production The Red Shoes which will be coming to the Wales Millennium Centre in 2017. Ashley is more than ably supported by Dominic North as Leo and Christopher Marney as Count Lilac together with a cast of exquisite dancers.

This stunning production uses a lush opulent set design to convey a dark gothic Victorian age and an Edwardian garden party before thrusting us into a stark underworld and a sinister costume ball. The use of puppetry for the baby Aurora is a stroke of genius introducing some lighter notes of comedy at the beginning of the ballet before unleashing a duel between the fairy kingdoms with a vampire thrown in for good measure all swept along by Tchaikovsky’s score. The whole production is a wonderful spectacle returning the tale of Sleeping Beauty to the place it truly belongs.