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.
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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