Sleeping Beauty, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds


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The Independent Culture

As a parent, particularly of little girls, one can grow heartily sick of the saccharine world of princesses, fairies and their tyranny of pink.

What a relief then to see Mike Kenny’s Sleeping Beauty which will run in multi-coloured glory alongside West Yorkshire Playhouse’s main house offering Wind in the Willows this Christmas.

Natasha Magigi joyously defies the picture book stereotype of the slumbering princess and makes the production all the richer for doing so.

So too the rest of the cast especially Simon Kerrigan as the rubbish prince whose last-minute attack of manners almost derails the final awakening.

But although this is a 100 minute production through which five-year-olds and even younger children sat happily spellbound by the songs and actions, it can charm adults too.

Wrapped in music and gentle humour, Kenny still confronts the dark heart at the original versions of the fairytale. A childless king and queen in a mythical land are blessed with the long-awaited arrival of a new baby – an event heralded by a frog in the queen’s bath.

At a party thrown to name the child, one of the fairies – or nannas in this case, apparently modelled on Russia’s Eurovision entrants this year called the Babushkas – is not invited. Her revenge is terrible and bleak.

The child will die on her fifteenth birthday after pricking her finger on a spinning wheel. A counter spell by another fairy commutes the sentence from death to sleep and the King’s heartfelt efforts to shield his daughter from the inevitable, fail.

But despite the macabre nature of the original, parents need not fear that their child will be frightened or disturbed by what they see here. Bad Nanna Sandra played by Celia Adams is more petulant teen than wicked witch and in the end everything turns out just fine – unlike one of the originals when happy ever after gives way to an even darker bout of infanticide.

This is a lovely story, elegantly and sensitively told, wittily performed, that will provide an enjoyable introduction to the world of theatre for families to enjoy together.

To January 19