Bristol Old Vic 


Sleeping Beauty December/January 2015-16


PHOTOS: © Steve-Tanner


Panto smut is all behind you at Old Vic


How do you breathe new life into Sleeping Beauty’s ancient fairytale that’s the Christmas production at the Bristol Old Vic (which is also celebrating its 250th anniversary)?

Place it in the capable hands of director Sally Cookson and her remarkable cast.

Sally takes the ingredients from the Grimm’s early 19th century traditional tale and merges them with an 18th century Romany gypsy story about a feisty heroine, terrifying witch and romance.

It launches with a jolly little song played by a trio in tweedy plus-fours.

It was only after a few lines I realised they were singing Bon Jovi’s Living On A Prayer, slowly and amusingly.

Gone is the wilting lead fated to sleep for 100 years.

This gender-swap production sees a mollycoddled Prince Percy (David Emmings) literally wrapped up in cotton wool after the evil fairy casts her wicked spell.

The witchy one, Sylvia, (Stu Goodwin) is adorable in figure-hugging midnight blue lurex, violet blue bobbed hair and great flapping black-shoed feet.

He plays it camper than Paul O’Grady as Lily Savage.

We fell in love with him, sorry her.

My favourites were the fairies.

In their neon-bright WI clothes with granny hats and handbags plus knitting needle wands to the ready.

They wittered endlessly to each other on clunky phones; about illnesses, wrestling, allotments and Bakewell tarts.

They were bright, beautiful and had every child and adults’ heart wrapped around their carefully-gloved fingers.

It’s the lead that brings the story into the 21st century.

Deilen is no princess but a homeless girl who’s lost the grandmother who brought her up.

Beautifully played by Kazrena James in her first production for the Bristol Old Vic - she recently appeared on the BBC’s ‘Being Human - Deilen is on a one-woman mission.

Feisty, fearless, hurt and lonely, it’s this teenager’s role to wake up the Prince - sent to sleep by a very alternative pin.

It’s a hilarious, very believable, take on the traditional kiss and I-won’t-spoil-it-for-you.

Then as if by magic, the play appears to quickly end with Prince Percy’s awakening and his overjoyed parents delight.

During the break the musical trio perform Prince’s Kiss paving the way for another romantic twist in the tale.

Ms Cookson begins to make Sleeping Beauty both her own, and forges links with other ancient tales.

Heartbroken Deilen was told by her dying, wise grandmother to seek the ‘leaves that hung but never grew’ and she’s stroppily not about to let any newly-awakened Prince divert her.

So smitten Percy packs his bag and tags along with his parents blessing like some alternative gap-year jaunt.

The pair cross deserts, rivers and icy mountains on their mission and slowly become friends.

But wicked Sylvia is not far behind.

With a wave of her magic wand she transforms the good fairies into sheep and herself into a very wicked Bo-Peep.

There’s a Hansel and Gretel echo and like all perfect fairy tales Sylvia gets her comeuppance as Prince Percy finds true love - with proper kisses.

Oh, and I loved finding out what the ‘leaves that hung but never grew’ finally were and the magical lesson that teaches children about stories.

This is a heart-warming, spellbindingly-staged rendition of Sleeping Beauty.

While it is miles from the traditional ‘it’s behind you panto’ it sidles jokingly up to it with great songs, amazing music and pitch-perfect repartee all minus sniggering smuttiness.

Sleeping Beauty is a show adored by all children and wonderful enough to warm the cockles of even grow-ups jaded Christmas hearts.

Sleeping Beauty plays at Bristol Old Vic until Sunday, January 17, with tickets from £7.50 to £37, suitable for children aged seven plus.

For performance times and more information click HERE or telephone 0117 987 7877.

Melanie Greenwood