Edinburgh Fringe 2015
A new telling of the Sleeping Beauty story. If you are destined to be married, what happens when you finally awake, and your eyes are opened?
A fresh take on the classic tale Sleeping Beauty. A princess is brought up, from the day she is born, to be a good and proper girl – good marrying material – but things fall apart somewhat when she realises that she cannot be what everyone expects. It’s a smart and involving script that questions the demands that we put on our young women and girls.
There are some clever discussions within the text that explore the side-lining of woman’s role in society, in subservience to the default male role. And certainly when the plot explores Sleeping Beauty’s sexuality – perhaps she’s not particularly interested in a dashing young prince sweeping her off her feet – it feels like a logical expansion of the admittedly somewhat limited scope of the original fairy story. This is a plot development that might lead to some curious questions from the younger members in any audience, but is sweetly and effectively done.
All that said, the performances are hesitant and unsure, certainly when compared to a confident and interesting script. It is a production with a curious lack of confidence in the performances. The ideas being explored in the text are fascinating, but frustratingly, the performances never quite match this. Occasionally, it feels like the rehearsal process hasn’t quite been long enough, and so we can assume that as the play gets further into the run, confidence will develop, and the show will – pun not intended – bed down. It’s an endlessly inventive, almost angry text: when one character snaps ‘I am the prince and you are the witch – I shall win,’ it’s clear that we can replace ‘prince’ for man and ‘witch’ for woman. The prince’s sense of entitlement is shrewdly played for laughs, while eliciting uncomfortable recognition from the older members of the audience.
It is admittedly somewhat challenging to create an entirely radical feminist take on Sleeping Beauty, especially if you’re not going to stray too far from the plot: after all, what can you do when your central character is essentially in a coma for most of the narrative? It certainly robs Sleeping Beauty of much of her agency for a lot of the fifty minutes. However, that’s Hans Christian Anderson’s fault rather than Not Cricket Productions, of course. And indeed, Not Cricket Productions are not in their posters actually claiming to be presenting a radical feminist retelling, and it should be underlined in such a portentous review as this one that the play is actually entirely child-friendly.