Writer: Robert Alan Evans
Director: Roisin McBrinn
Reviewer: Barbara Michaels
A modern retake on a classic fairy tale, Sleeping Beauties is this year’s Christmas offering by Sherman Theatre. Rachel Canning’s imaginative sets, at times darkly brooding, at others glittering and sparkling, create the magic that is the essential ingredient at this time of a year for what is propounded to be a play for children. The tale as we know it, of the princess who falls beneath the spell of a wicked witch and sleeps for a thousand years, has always had its dark side, but Rob Evans’ creation goes beyond this to a degree that must be questionable in a production aimed at so young an audience – children over the age of seven.
The central characters are Princess Dawn and her friend Eve, best friends despite being “Night and Day, Day and Night.” Dawn is the daughter of a Queen who, desperate to become pregnant, makes a promise to the Fertility Witch which she fails to keep, and Eve the daughter of her servant Rose. The consequence of the broken promise is that the Witch puts a curse on Dawn – she is doomed to die on her 15th birthday. In time-honoured style, Dawn and Eve – who throws in her lot with her friend – fall asleep for a thousand years instead.
Insufficiently cheered by an enthusiastic Charleston and scattered touches of self-conscious humour, the first half is over-long and shadowed by an atmosphere of gloom, although things do brighten up a little later in Act II, with some great dancing in the Pig Ball and an innovative use of roller skates by young actor Adam Scales as the Prince, looking suitably bemused at times in a white astronaut-style outfit.
There is considerable talent in the small cast, outstandingly so in the case of Lisa Jên Brown in the pivotal rôle of the Fertility Witch (a sort of Fairy Godmother with a mean streak who wants to save the world). Brown has that hard to quantify quality – stage presence – as well as a superb voice. Even in a noisy and packed auditorium, every word, delivered in a clear-cut diction, can be heard.
Playing opposite her as the Baddie of the piece – called for some inexplicable reason Clove – Gruffudd Glyn is a convincing Mr Nasty, lurking in the shadows with menace behind a doubt-ridden King, played by Mathew Bulgo as an indecisive monarch – more weakling than Despot.
As Princess Dawn, Gwawr Loader has a pleasant voice and persona, but could with adding a tad more regality to her rôle if we are to believe in her Royal background. In the rôle of Dawn’s best friend Eve, the talented Bettrys Jones gives us a convincing and, at times, touching portrayal of the gangly teenager from further down in the pecking order whose staunch friendship is at the heart of this fairy tale for a new generation.
Their awakening to a brand-new world is a core theme of the production, along with the power of friendship. Evans has gone into overload with the darker elements. Too much gloom, which is not at all the same feeling as the delicious shiver-up-the spine that we expect in a Christmas show of this genre.
Runs until 4th January 2014. |Photo: Mark Douet