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Sleeping Beauty – Dream On, Chickenshed Theatre

David Carey and Louise Perry
Music and Lyrics by Jo Collins, David Carey, Phil Haines and Paul Morrall
Directed by Louise Perry

Pros: This inclusive production of a classic fairy tale with a fun modern day twist and a panto influence truly encapsulates the spirit of the holiday season. A fun and engaging night of theatre for children and grown ups alike.

Cons: The stage becomes a bit overcrowded in places, but you soon forget about this when you see everyone having such a good time! In places the sound levels need adjusting so you can properly hear everything.

Our Verdict: An energetic, upbeat Christmas show that will most certainly put you in the Christmas spirit!

Courtesy of The Chickenshed

It’s the show that has everything: live music, singing, dance, a classic story (with some lovely modern day, less-Brothers-Grimm tweaks to keep the mood light), time travel, punks, hippies, funk, glow-in-the-dark costumes, flips, moving staircases, fog machines, a wicked dame, a wicked dame’s son and a little audience interaction just to keep you on your toes!

There is literally something for everyone in this modern-day telling of the children’s fairy tale, perhaps because it was created by everyone. In one of their traditional inclusively cast Christmas shows, the Chickenshed has engaged over 800 people from all ages, backgrounds and abilities to produce an ambitious and entertaining show which is accessible across the board.

As an infant, Beauty is cursed to death by finger prick by a power hungry Auntie – a spell that can only be derailed by her Godparents who alter the curse to 100 years of sleep. In protecting her from her fate, her parents (the King and Queen of the land) coddle her terribly, and in her eyes, over-protect her annoyingly, so that she has no choice but to become an obstinate little brat (played very convincingly by Michelle Nachum)!

Off to boarding school she goes to be whipped into shape, only to be tracked down by her evil Auntie and sent into a deep sleep. In an attempt to awake her from her slumber, her teachers decide to go back in time to change the course of history. But instead of a few hours, Good Conscience and Bad Conscience (a fabulously comic and quick-on-their feet sparring duo played by Charlie Kemp and Ashley Maynard) take us back to 1977, the decade Beauty’s parents met, to teach her a lesson or two and to help her shape her own destiny.

It’s a fun concept and it opens up the possibility for some great group numbers including a rather brilliantly eerie but toe-tapping take on Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall, a wonderfully humourous ‘clique off’ between the hippies and the punks, and a delightful rendition of The Hustle (cleverly turned into ‘The Russell’ as Beauty’s 1970s version of her father attempts to woo the 1970s version of her mother).

While there were scenes and storyline elements that seemed to be working around the concept of the production in a rather forced manner, it was generally easy to go with the added fun and levity these components added to the show.

An innovatively adaptable set design by Adrian P. Smith was at once the palace, the school and the forest, and it seamlessly transported you to each setting (and decade for that matter), as did the very catchy score. That being said, the talented band did consistently over-power the vocals which took away from what I’m sure were some pretty clever lyrics.

Besides watching an extremely diverse cast come together to show off their talent and deliver a really enjoyable piece of theatre, my favourite feature of the piece was the incorporation of British Sign Language integrated subtly but pointedly into the production bringing the cast together in a profound message of solidarity and creativity that is the spirit of the season and the arts itself.

This is a funny, entertaining, touching holiday show full of heart, energy and enthusiasm. Highly recommended.

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

Sleeping Beauty – Dream On runs at Chickenshed Theatre until 12th January 2013.
Box Office: 020 8292 9222 or book online at http://www.chickenshed.org.uk/

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