The Sleeping Beauty
Little Angel Theatre
For the Little Angel Theatre's autumn season opener, The Sleeping Beauty, the theatre founder's original puppets have been brought out of store and given a new lease of life in a witty and thoughtful version by playwright and translator Gregory Motton.
What makes Motton's script so appealing is its success at mixing child-friendly pantomimic "it is"-"it isn't" banter with crystal clear story-telling and at the same time giving it all a contemporary edge. This 15 year old princess is no soppy girly-girl, she is a teenager held back by over-protective parents who asks her maid about boys and her parents "Why are you so old?"
This version includes a Gollum-like daemon that misleads the hapless suitors who are generally omitted from the standard sleeping beauty plot, and benefits from a second, tender love story between Tim, the palace gardener, and Anne, the maid. Tim is no swashbuckling chocolate-box-delivery hero, but the story is none the less engaging as proven by sound of "yuk" amongst the young audience when Anne and Tim kiss!
Sarah Burgess, Roger Lade, Mark Whittaker and Sarah Wright, the puppeteers, are as skilful a cohort as you could hope to get, their teamwork providing a seamless flow of puppets across an inventive three-tiered stage, providing as well the voices for all the characters in addition to animal impersonations and some of the sound effects. If you think endearing pigs that do tricks and herd cows are stupid and only exist in sugar-flavoured Disney, think again.
The detail is not just in the design (by Lyndie Wright) where touches like the tiny watering can in the palace garden add their own charm; the smallest of gestures - a petite fairy shaking her head when she cannot reverse the wicked spell - are captured under the careful direction of Christopher Leith and enhanced by the wonderful accompaniment of David Wright on a spinet. The effect is quite beguiling!
In these days of credit crunch and anxiety looking at the faces of the children during The Sleeping Beauty is an excellent reminder of what is really important in life. If you don't have any children of your own, borrow some and share the magic.
"The Sleeping Beauty" runs until 9 November 2008
Morning performances for children aged 3 and up; afternoon performances for ages 5 and up. There are also limited baby-friendly performances.
Reviewer: Sandra Giorgetti