Review: Sleeping Beauty, Citizens Theatre, Glasgow (Daily Telegraph)

Sleeping Beauty, Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, review

This revival of Rufus Norris’s acclaimed version of the great fairytale, is visibly captivating, writes Mark Brown.

Have you ever wondered what happens to Sleeping Beauty after she is woken by the Prince’s kiss? All is revealed at the Citizens Theatre, where new director Dominic Hill’s first Christmas show is a revival of Rufus Norris’s acclaimed version of the great fairytale.

Norris’s play (which premiered at the Young Vic in London in 2002) is drawn not from the better known Grimm Brothers’ adaptation of the tale but from the 17th-century original by Charles Perrault.

If the visibly captivated schoolchildren in Tuesday afternoon’s audience are any measure, the Norris/Perrault narrative has lost none of its capacity to enthrall young and old alike.

It is a joy to see Beauty (played with tremendous balance by young Lucy Hollis) emerge from her long sleep and go on to marry, have children and become a woman of substance. This she has to do quickly as she and her babes face the terror of ogres who live on human flesh.

If there is a powerful bleakness in Norris’s script, Hill’s production visualises it with an extraordinary boldness. Naomi Wilkinson’s set – an eerie and claustrophobic representation of a dark forest – has more blacks and greys than one would have thought possible (or, indeed, wise) in a Christmas show. Yet, assisted by Guy Hoare’s clever lighting, the design proves intelligently responsive to the play’s shifts in tone.

Indeed, every aspect of this beautifully crafted production, from Norris’s characterisations through to Paddy Cunneen’s fine music and song, is balanced perfectly between light and dark. Nowhere is this clearer than in the contrast between Fairy Goody (a fearless, no-nonsense, earthy character, played with tremendous sympathy, warmth and humour by the excellent Kathryn Howden) and the Ogre.

While the Fairy is endearing and, to the children’s great amusement, flatulent, the Ogre (John Kielty, amazingly masked and costumed) is one of the most astonishingly realised monsters to have graced the Scottish stage in many years. Crucially, he is frightening enough to elicit screams in his forays into the stalls, but not so terrifying that the youngest audience members (recommended age five) will be scared out of their wits.

Like Hill’s previous Christmas offering (The Three Musketeers and the Princess of Spain at Edinburgh’s Traverse Theatre in 2010), this Sleeping Beauty is an impressively stylish and wonderfully engaging piece of seasonal theatre.

Until January 6. Tickets: www.citz.co.uk

This review was originally published on the website of the Daily Telegraph on December 7, 2012

© Mark Brown

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