by Romy Foster
It’s a wonder that Sleeping Trees have managed to put on a show for kids. Their adult productions are cheeky, provocative, silly and inappropriate but in Sleeping Beauty and the Beast they bring the fun for kids and adults alike in this partially improvised twist on two children’s classics.
I have never not seen a full-to-capacity audience at any of this company’s performances (multiple times, big fan). They have made Battersea Arts Centre their home at Christmas for the past few years and built up quite the reputation. The company are great with kids and audience interaction. Though every night is slightly different, it’s hard to believe it could be anything other than bonkers but in the best way. James Dunnell-Smith, Joshua George Smith, and John Woodburn are quick-witted, open and playful and – as always 0 bring the life and soul to the piece. Jamal Franklin and Juliana Lisk are the perfect additions to this Christmas treat of a show. Franklin brings high energy, class and is completely loveable as Professor Belle whereas Lisk brings the laughs and great physicalization multi-rolling as characters such as King Rat, Gaston, Sleepy the Dwarf and others.
Being partly improvised, the cast are all great at multi-rolling, super-dedicated to listening to each
other and taking risks, which feels very special to watch and be a part of. The sleepover theme,
audience interaction and occasional ‘corpsing’ really makes the audience feel involved and like you’re part of a massive friendship group.
Pantomimes don’t always seem particularly Christmassy, but the addition of Santa as one of the reoccurring characters (and making him the MC of the ‘gooduation ceremony’ at the Goodie-versity: the institute for reformed baddies) brings the Christmas spirit alive. The story uses a mystery genre, something the company has never explored before but is executed flawlessly as they try to break their way out of dreamland after being mysteriously poisoned to sleep for 1000 years. Overall, this is one not to miss and a dream I don’t want to wake up from.
Sleeping Beauty and the Beast runs through 30 December. Battersea Arts Centre is currently running a Pay What You Can scheme on all tickets to make theatre more accessible to everybody.
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