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Sleeping Beauty review at the Watermill Theatre, Newbury – ‘sharp, funny and energetic’

The cast of Sleeping Beauty at the Watermill Theatre, Newbury. Photo: Philip Tull

The Watermill Theatre’s aged wooden beams are the ideal setting for a dark fairy story. The atmosphere is built in.

Rufus Norris’ version of Sleeping Beauty is stripped down to a cast of seven actor-musicians which suits the space well.

Bill Buckhurst’s production is sharp, funny, pacy and energetic, with clear storytelling throughout and earthy, if flatulent, humour. There are fittingly exaggerated performances from the whole cast. Simon Nock is menacing as an ogress, there’s a feisty heroine in Rachel Winters’s Beauty and a standout turn from Molly Logan as a farting fairy full of knowingness and physicality.

The songs are delivered competently and the movement is eye-catching with spare but effective choreography by Georgina Lamb. Joshua Carr’s lighting is suitably illuminating and Simon Kenny’s set compensates width for height in the confined space: a raised recessed blue circle is the centrepiece with a tangled framework of wheels at its edges.

There’s a lot that sets this apart from standard Christmas fare. There’s no mention at all of the season, for example; Sleeping Beauty wakes up half way through, and there’s no sentimentality in the script or the performances. The children in the audience did not seem to miss it.

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Verdict
Alternative Christmas show that hits the heights while keeping its feet on the ground
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