The Sandman

This Victoriana adaptation of a gothic adaptation of a children’s fairy tale figure is not exactly breaking new ground. It could have come from any number of the white-shirt and braces wearing wacky student troupes here at Fringe. The Sandman, has some good moments, and a dark sense of humour but generally doesn’t stand out from the busy crowd.

Once it gets into its stride, The Sandman might be worth seeking out if you are already a fan of the myth – but it’s not going to convert any newcomers.

Eta Hoffman’s dark take on the kindly sleep-sand scattering figure of the Sandman. Hoffman’s transformed The Sandman into a haunting figure that steals eyes from the bad children who won’t go to sleep, a figure that haunts the tale of Nathaniel’s descent into madness.

In Shindig Theatre’s adaptation, Nathaniel’s father meets with Coppelius, a mysterious man who wanted his father to make something for him. When Nathaniel’s father refused Coppelius killed him. When Nathaniel is older, he leaves his fiancée behind briefly to go away to university. In the town he hears mysterious singing from the house across the street. When someone who looks a lot like Coppelius sells him a spyglass with which he can see the source of the singing. The beautiful and cold Olimpia, a woman of few words for whom Nathaniel immediately falls for. However, there something not quite right about Olimpia, something rigid, mechanical even. A secret so dark you may never wish to have seen it.

The trio’s stylised performance were sound but weren’t quite as over the top as they needed to be. The movements were often there, but the expression did not spread to their faces. This was also true of the points of choreography and physical theatre, there were good ideas, but they hadn’t been pushed to their full potential. This was particularly disappointing when the characters are as one dimensional as classic gothic horror tropes, so you can really go for it. It was a really good decision to swap the gender of the professor, making it a mother missing a daughter story was an interesting angle to go for.

There were a number of poor choices – if you are going to store props in pockets, don’t put the cast in tight shorts. Apart from that the sense of set and costume design was strong. On occasion the lighting was frankly bizarre, at some points leaving half the stage in shadow. The performers were drowned out by very loud atmospheric creepy whispers, which rather fail to work if you can’t hear the cast over them. The direction seemed a bit startled by the surprise thrust staging. And then there were the prop placement difficulties – putting a hat stand through the roof rather detracted from the opening.

Once it gets into its stride, The Sandman might be worth seeking out if you are already a fan of the myth – but it’s not going to convert any newcomers.

Reviews by M Johnson

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The Blurb

Inspired by ETA Hoffmann’s Der Sandman, Shindig Theatre Company bring a bold new spin to this classic story. Haunted by a childhood encounter with the sinister Sandman, Nathaniel deals with the struggles of adult life whilst trying to shake off the demons of his past. But as dreams spill into waking life the mystery of the Sandman becomes a reality. This Gothic tale of romance and discovery is filled with humour, intrigue and inventive storytelling.

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