Once Upon a Nightmare

Occasionally the odd masterpiece arrives at the Free Fringe; such is the case with this gloriously atmospheric fantasy adventure tale. With influences from a wide range of fantasy movies, Box Step Productions have crafted their own mysterious, gripping and thoroughly exciting adventure show.

Fantasy isn’t the easiest of genres to transfer to stage, especially on a low budget, but this company has provided an extremely polished, perfectly paced adventure tale that uses its limited stage space wisely.

We follow the young Sophie (a gracefully grounded performance by Katerina Stearman) as she attempts to find her brother, who has been transported to a magical land, Somnia. Captured by an evil sorceress, her brother has gone to the dark side and it’s down to Sophie to help him remember his true self. First of all she has to get out of the mental asylum she currently finds herself in, as no one truly believes her story.

It’s a dark fantasy show that manages to provide a lot of humour within its epic tale. The cast have great fun recreating lots of different quirky characters. It’s a play that may be a little too scary for the very young, but anyone with a taste for the magical will be completely transfixed by this unique experience.

The cast are all excellent but there has to be special mention for the female members: Stearman provides a likeable heroine and Rachel Bird is great fun as the straight-faced warrior who has a squirrel to keep her company. An otherworldly presence is provided by Victoria Blunt as the Nightmare Queen, a terrifying character who adds a real gravitas to the fantasy. Her performance is of an exceptional quality and she underplays the queen with a melancholy to her hatred, perfectly summed up in a beautifully performed showstopper song at the midway point. There is such a variety of characters played by the six cast members that everyone is likely to come out of the show with their own favourite.

Fantasy isn’t the easiest of genres to transfer to stage, especially on a low budget, but this company has provided an extremely polished, perfectly paced adventure tale that uses its limited stage space wisely. Director Michael Clarkson keeps the show running with some wonderfully choreographed fight sequences and magic battles that are perfectly timed with the sound effects and dramatic music. It’s a testament to the writers, director and the performers that the show never seems silly or childish and you may very well tear up as we say goodbye to a character we’ve grown to love. 

Reviews by Stewart McLaren

Online at www.DavidLeddy.com (with Traverse Theatre)

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The Blurb

Once Upon a Nightmare is a darkly comic adventure fantasy play for all ages from the makers of the hit five-star show Death Ship 666! Andy and Sophie are only ten years old when they are sucked into the magical dream world of Somnia to defeat the Nightmare King. But only one makes it back home to reality. Twenty years later, Sophie is called back to Somnia once more to save her childhood friend from the clutches of a nightmare from which no one can wake.

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