Sleeping Beauty

As though the Märchen of the Brothers Grimm weren't harrowing enough, Another Soup's production of the classic Sleeping Beauty renders this tale even bleaker and more upsetting.Many people will have read the Grimm version, others perhaps the original Perrault, but most will know the Disney version. What we see here is a new offering drawing from multiple sources: a daughter, Briar Rose, is born to a pleasant royal couple who invite the equally feared and revered Wyrd Sisters to magically bless their child. When the fourth, most powerful and imposing Sister is overlooked, she storms the palace, enraged, and offers instead a curse.With the princess sentenced to death at age 16 – when she will prick her finger on a spinning wheel – the one Sister yet to offer a blessing, Karabos, manages to reduce this fate to a hundred years' slumber. The King and Queen ban all spinning wheels from the land, but when they're later taken out of the equation, who can look after fair Briar Rose? And more importantly, by age 16, is Briar Rose the sweet, innocent thing we think she is?A sweet storyteller who shimmies from nice to nasty in the blink of an eye recounts the tale to the horde of children clustered around her feet on stage. As she narrates, a small cast plays multiple characters using just basic make-up and an on-stage box of torn fabrics. All the fairytale characters are fully realised, from the infamous Sisters, spoilt princess, King and Queen right down to the charming prince (born to parents base of stock, of course), Malkind, and guardsmen.The production benefits greatly from a strong script, the inspired use of physical theatre and subtle incorporation of music into the drama. Enhancements also come in puppet form, with some saddening marionettes busying themselves with menial labour, including some very clever puppetry-cum-physical-theatre that sees a reprise as voodoo in the elimination of the royal couple.Acting across the board was strident and stylised, as a fairytale should be; and mostly very well done. The exaggerated gestures and expressions worked as a great subversive parody of Disney.Particular mention must go to Karabos, who in her witchiness at times seemed almost too realistic. What is especially admirable is that this ambitious production strikes the perfect balance between pandering to the children and playing for grown-ups.Some of the initial dialogue was a little garbled and the Sisters' enchantment scene goes on for too long. Given their slightly awkward position at stage left, children seated on the stage won't actually get to see that much, especially to do with the the subtly effective expressions and close gestures, which makes it perhaps a slightly gimmicky decision. That said, there was little wrong with the production, save for a slightly abrupt ending – but that just adds to the shocking impact. I won't reveal the ending but to say that Briar Rose's rescuer might not be so well received.

Reviews by Fen Greatley

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The Blurb

Come with us on an immersive, captivating and visceral storytelling experience! The original Brothers Grimm fairytale has been transformed into a dark adaptation using a mixture of puppetry, physical theatre and verse. The Brothers never felt so Grimm...