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Review: Sleeping Beauty at the Liverpool Empire

If love is in the air, it's a date

Sleeping Beauty by Matthew Bourne(Image: Johan Persson)

With Valentine's Day only a hair's breadth away, what better way to continue the celebrations than with a fine romance.

Matthew Bourne's Gothic fairy tale Sleeping Beauty is making a welcome return to the Liverpool Empire this week and if love is in the air, it's a date.

The master storyteller spins not one piece of yarn to tell his tale but has the audience rapt from curtain up with his naughty puppet baby Aurora who squeals, wails, crawls out of control and even climbs the curtains. Like most babies she certainly doesn't begin life as a Sleeping Beauty.

Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty at the Liverpool Empire(Image: Simon Annand)

Despite the noise, the fairies still come visiting, brandishing good wishes - even Tantrum, the fairy of temperament, played perfectly petulantly by Liam Mower - before the evil fairy Carabosse casts her spell.

Lez Bretherston's Gothic fairy costumes are fabulous, multi-layered, multi-textured affairs and I would buy a range if he was ever to expand into retail.

Lez Bretherston's breathtaking costumes(Image: Simon Annand)

Fast forward to Aurora's 21st birthday and the celebration is taking place in an English country garden. Ashley Shaw as Aurora is so light on her feet and ethereal she makes me long for a summer day to run barefoot through the grass. Her movements are fluid and effortless and her duet with lover Leo, the royal gamekeeper, Chris Trenfield, is sensual and beautifully entwined.

Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty at the Liverpool Empire(Image: Mikah Smillie)

Of course it rains - and with the rain comes the long-forgotten Carabosse's son Caradoc, to wreak his mother's revenge. Tom Clark is equally evil in both parts and it is touch and go whether or not Aurora might even fall for the dark stranger. And fall indeed she does after a prick from the dreaded black rose.

A vampire bite grants Leo immortality and we know that all will end well.

(Image: Mikah Smilie)

Act II is set in the 21st century. Leo is less attractive in grey jeans and a hoodie (give me plus fours and a flat cap any day) but determined to find his love and awaken her with his well planted kiss.

Before he can, our heroine finds herself in the free and spirited land of the sleepwalkers, and then being forced to marry the dreaded Caradoc in what looks like a sleazy nightclub.

The land of the sleepwalkers(Image: Simon Annand)

I went with my daughter - I preferred Act I, she, of the Twilight generation, preferred Act II but we both loved the whole.

With fantasy, vampires, comedy, puppetry, a fantastic score, an unbelievable story line and a corps of fantastic dancers, what's not to love.

Sleeping Beauty is at the Liverpool Empire until Saturday February 20. Book tickets here .

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