Sleeping Beauty – Review

by / January 18, 2014 Theatre No Comments

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Sleeping Beauty offers a hysterical trip to the magical land of Waa, in Jez Bond and Mark Cameron’s new imagining of the classic fairytale of a princess. Beginning in Finsbury Park, the audience is introduced to an old lady and her adorable dog (Hazel, Park Theatre’s resident canine) waiting for the bus, who recounts the story of the Princess of Pilipot and a handsome young king from the neighbouring Kingdom of Babuüs.

The play effortlessly jumps from the reality of a bus stop in North London straight into the ridiculous fantasy world of Waa. As expected with panto it’s over the top, silly and completely ludicrous, but surprisingly full of genuinely funny jokes, excellent comedic timing and a real sense of class. It’s almost as if Sleeping Beauty is poking fun at the traditional panto genre whilst simultaneously adhering to the format. There was physical comedy, slow motion sequences and audience participation as anticipated, but nods to Shakespeare (“two kingdoms both alike in haberdashery”), Monty Python-esque humour and in-jokes about Arsenal and Sue Barker took it to an entirely different level. There was no polite chuckling from the audience: we were bent over into our programmes clutching our sides laughing and wiping away tears the whole evening.

The layout of the theatre itself lends to a more intimate affair, and a simple set allowed the audience to focus solely on the actors. In a sea of absurdity, Aimee Grey somehow manages to play the Princess with a sense of calm and poise (even when greeting other characters in their native languages), highlighting the insanity unfolding around her. I was fully expecting to see the young king played by a woman in keeping with pantotraditions, but once again Sleeping Beauty left me pleasantly surprised: Craig Fletcher is truly excellent, switching from the love-lorn king to his odd professor alter-ego perfectly, clearly at home with farcical comedy. The majority of the laughs, however, come from the double act of Mark Cameron’s Dame Ottomand her son, Ernie (Matthew Cavendish). The two bounce off each other well, and managed to keep the gags going throughout the entire play. Much has to be said of the two sisters as well, with Caroline Deverilldeliciously nasty in her monologues as the Evil Witch, in direct contrast with the quirky and upbeat Good Fairy (Kaisa Hammarlund).

As the safety flannels (brilliant equivalents of a safety curtain) descended and we shuffled out into the cold, Ihad to confess that I utterly adored Sleeping Beauty, and for someone who never thought they’d enjoy pantoagain I was thrilled to be proven wrong. If you’re mourning a return to a cold and rainy London, can’t face hibernating in the library just yet and want to prolong the festive spirit then make a trip to the Park Theatre and have yourself transported to the land of Waa. It’s guaranteed to lift your spirits and the original music, hysterical comedy and beautiful theatre will definitely have you smiling whatever your age. Hurry though – there’s only a few days left!