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Mark Fisher
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Follow me on Twitter at MarkFFisher, WriteAboutTheat and LimelightXTC I am a freelance journalist and critic specialising in theatre and the arts. Publications I write for include the Guardian and the Scotsman. I am the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: how to make your show a success and How to Write About Theatre: A Manual for Critics, Students and Bloggers. I am also editor of The XTC Bumper Book of Fun for Boys and Girls: A Limelight Anthology. From 2000-2003, I was the editor of The List magazine, Glasgow and Edinburgh's arts and events guide.
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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Sleeping Beauty, theatre review

Published in the Guardian

Citizens Theatre
Three stars

AS pantos across the land ramp up the contrast, volume and colour, the Christmas show at the Citz is refreshingly austere. Against a backdrop of naked winter trees, this Sleeping Beauty plays out in a nightmarish, monochrome landscape, the half-light alleviated by no more than a flash of gold or a blood-red dress.

It's a bleak world, somewhere between Samuel Beckett and Tim Burton, a place where the Prince (Owen Whitelaw) and Beauty (Lucy Hollis) have to battle with uncommon ferocity to achieve their liberation. In its simplest form, Sleeping Beauty is a metaphor for the passage from childhood to maturity. The Prince awakens Beauty into adulthood and effectively frees her from parental authority. But in Rufus Norris's adaptation of Charles Perrault's original, the end of Beauty's 100-year sleep is merely the beginning of a long struggle towards release and renewal.

This becomes a parable about the failure of an older generation to relinquish control over the next. Beauty's family conflicts are nothing compared to those of the Prince. His mother, played by Mark McDonnell, is an ogre with a taste for human flesh. Having suppressed her appetite for her son, she is now ravenous for her grandchildren. It means Kathryn Howden, as the poor Fairy Goody, has to keep her magical powers on the go throughout Beauty's sleep and into the battles to come.

This is psychologically fascinating, and director Dominic Hill is fully committed – perhaps too committed – to the bleakness of Norris's vision. Paddy Cunneen's low-pitched songs do nothing to lift the spirits, nor does Naomi Wilkinson's set suggest any green shoots of recovery. There is enough stomping about by John Kielty's towering Ogre to keep the children thrilled, but the production pursues its theme so relentlessly that it denies us the happy ending we yearn for.
© Mark Fisher, 2012

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