BWW Reviews: SLEEPING BEAUTY DREAM ON, Chickenshed Theatre, December 20 2012
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by Gary Naylor
Not quite a panto, but definitely a Christmas tradition, Chickenshed's December offering is a re-working of Sleeping Beauty with songs, dance and a cast of hundreds.
With a Greek chorus of Good and Bad Consciences to guide her, spoilt brat Beauty is sent back in time and meets her nagging mother and drippy father as teenagers in their Hogwarts-without-the-magic school. She discovers that there is rather more to her parents' personalities than met her haughty teenage eye, sees the error of her selfish ways and realises that unless she can play matchmaker, her mother may fall for her evil aunt's son and she might never be born! With her very existence at stake, Beauty calls upon the help of her godparent-teachers' talents and, not without a squeek or two, pulls through a wiser and kinder person.
With plenty of laughs for the kids, there's plenty for the grown-ups too, with Joseph Morton's turn as Myrtle (The Bad Fairy Aunt) splendidly over-the-top and Jojo Morrall and Mark Lees winningly convincing as a punk Queen and hippy King who get together in the most unlikely circumstances. There's a wonderfully adaptable set with staircases that make Hogwarts' look positively static and a fantastic montage of pop culture icons as Beauty tumbles back through time to 1977.
Great show that it is, Chickenshed's work always carries a deeper message. In a year in which London has never celebrated its diversity more - at Olympics and Paralympics - all of the sprawling metropolis' humanity is represented up there. on stage, loving it. Does it matter? Does it work? Does it inspire? I'll leave that verdict to my 15 year-old son. Reading the programme and noting how many of the cast are students or recent graduates of Chickenshed's educational work, on the way home, he said, "It really makes you want to do a BTEC." He's right. It does. It really does.
Sleeping Beauty is at Chickenshed until 12 January 2013.