Sleeping Beauty

Fri 5th – Sat 27th August 2011

reviews

Ellen Marsh

at 14:06 on 17th Aug 2011

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Another Soup’s production of Sleeping Beauty reimagines the fairy tale with witches instead of fairies, and an unhappy ending. There are some confusing aspects to the play – the motivation of the Three Sisters of the Eastern Marshes and Carabosse seemed inconsistent, and their endgame for Briar Rose is not always clear. It is refreshing, though, too see an adapted fairy tale that doesn’t feel the need to sex-up the story or resort to swearing every two seconds. This Sleeping Beauty is still child-friendly.

All actors commit completely to their parts, whether they are human or part of the set. This is the most interesting aspect of the production – the actors create the environment they perform in. Among the most interesting is a giant bonfire, the actors gathering in the centre of the stage using their limbs to represent flames, and creating a convincing soundscape with clicks and claps – shut your eyes and it sounds exactly like a fire. Even when creating human characters these actors are required to be very physical, creating clear distinctions between their principal roles and the wide-eyed spectators they become when not involved in the action of the scene. Justin Blanchard creates a particularly striking physicality for his character Malkin.

The props designed by Beatrice Wallbank are impressive, and would not be out of place in a professional production. Likewise the sound and lighting design is slick and executed perfectly – it was a real pleasure to see a show with such a skilled technical team.

There were many children in the audience, who seemed to thoroughly enjoy Sleeping Beauty, and the frightening aspects of this version were not too scary for them. It was an enjoyable enough production, and with a very talented team behind it, and though some of the adaptations to the story did not entirely convince me, it is among the better plays I have seen at the festival this year. The fourth star is entirely down to the excellent work of the technicians and prop design.

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Natalya Din-Kariuki

at 15:46 on 17th Aug 2011

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Another Soup Productions' "Sleeping Beauty" re-tells the classic fairytale through a combination of highly stylized physical theatre, puppetry and verse. The piece charts the journey of Briar Rose as she is born, alternately blessed and cursed, and finally awoken by William, an inhabitant of the kingdom. To the left of the stage sits a storyteller (Charlotte Deans), book in hand and surrounded by young children as the audience lean in, child-like, to hear the tale.

The production exhibits its weaknesses in extended sections of speech or dialogue, the words frequently seeming stilted and forced and characters lacking development. However, this cast is superb when in movement, and the production is aesthetically brilliant - the set is mostly bare, and the actors create tableaux and other visual and audial devices to establish setting in each scene. When Briar Rose (Rebecca Wallbank) is tricked by Carabosse (Deans) into using a spinning wheel, three other cast members flawlessly create the spinning wheel through the use of their bodies - including its seat and pedal. Similarly impressive is the scene in which William (Barnaby Skerrett) travels through the night-time forest, complete with owl noises, whistling winds and writhing foliage, all created by the cast. The production's use of puppetry is unusual and highly effective in not jarring with its more naturalistic and human elements; in one scene, the puppets are used to represent the peasantry - Malkin (Justin Blanchard) cruelly drags a washer-woman (played by a member of the cast) by puppet strings joined to her arms.

Director David Spencer and the rest of the cast and production team deserve congratulations for creating a piece so visually engaging and layered - in physical theatre terms, this group is fantastic and well worth seeing. However, they leave much room for improvement in the more basic (or conventional!) aspects of theatrical performance, including creating believable and dynamic characters. This group do work incredibly well together, and I look forward to seeing what they do next.

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