Review: Sleeping Beauty (online)

We all know the story of Sleeping Beauty. A princess is cursed to sleep for a hundred years by an evil fairy, a handsome prince breaks the spell with a kiss and the pair live happily ever after. But this Christmas, Tea Break Theatre has given this fairy tale a modern twist in its new online interactive production.

In this new reimagining of Sleeping Beauty, which takes place on Zoom, Prince (not an actual prince, his parents just liked fairy tales) sets off on an adventure to rescue Princess Rose and fulfil his dream of becoming a hero. With help from his trusted, mischievous dog Puff and a little magic from the audience, not to mention a few ‘unique’ characters he meets on his quest, Prince has to race to save the Princess and help defeat the evil Dreaver who turns your dreams against you.

Written and directed by Katharine Armitage, Sleeping Beauty uses puppetry, comedy and music to transport viewers to another world. Tea Break Theatre specialises in adapting stories for families and young children and this is certainly an enjoyable production. Younger viewers are sure to appreciate the interactive element where the audience help Prince with a little bit of magic (you can of course keep your cameras off if you wish), and even adults are sure to be amused as they’re encouraged to lend a helping hand too. 

The performers Felicity Sparks, Alicia McKenzie, Chris Dobson and Molly Small are all incredibly energetic and upbeat in their roles, managing to hold viewers’ attention throughout as they bring this fairy tale to life with enthusiasm, which is certainly not easy over Zoom. Molly Small is particularly delightful as Arabelcha, a chef who certainly wouldn’t score highly when it comes to food hygiene standards, and is hilarious – and disgusting – as she sings a song about somewhat unusual recipe ingredients. 

Sadly not all of the characters lend themselves quite so well to the story – the character Super Christmas feels too much and doesn’t quite have the same comedic effect as the others, though her song will stay with you for days. But on the whole this reimagining has some great ideas. The use of puppetry is particularly effective, hand puppets doubling as menacing ‘Shadows’; and Puff and his feline counterpart Alba certainly were a hit with the younger viewers. And the twists to the story should also be commended. Rather than being a helpless princess, Rose is a girl with ambition and bags full of courage; while the meeting between her and Prince is certainly different to the original Disney storyline. 

There are one or two moments where the Zoom backgrounds falter and also a few scenes where the pacing needs work, but the younger audience members on press night certainly didn’t seem to notice. On the whole Sleeping Beauty is an entertaining family production which encourages viewers to keep dreaming, and also emphasises the importance of community, themes which are certainly relevant this year with the pandemic. With some clever ideas, an enthusiastic cast and a touch of magic, this is a creative production that’s certainly worth a watch this Christmas. 

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Sleeping Beauty runs until 30th December. 

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