Throughout the Christmas holidays, the Battersea Arts Centre is hosting the new Holidays Pantomime “Sleeping Beauty and the Beast”, directed by Kerry Frampton. The play is a feel-good family show that puts on stage everyone’s favourite characters from our childhood fairy tales, adding on a pinch of humour, parody and Christmas spirit.
The beloved trio Sleeping Trees (James Dunnel-Smith, John Woodburn and Joshua George Smith) are back on stage, accompanied by Juliana Lisk and Jamal Franklin who are ready to embark on a new adventure. The five friends are having a slumber party when James realises that someone stole the script of their play. In order to change his mood, his friends improvise a story that they invent as they play along. They start acting the story of Goodie-versity, a university presided by Beauty and The Beast for recovering bad guys who want to become good. One day, the school receives a surprise visit from an inspector who menaces to close the school if their graduation doesn’t go smoothly. However, everything turns to catastrophe when the Beast is put to sleep by a sleeping potion, which highjacks the graduation. Belle turns to her friend detective Sleeping Beauty to solve the case of who poisoned her husband, and to bring him back from Dreamland.
The play offers a hilarious situation of meta-theatre where the story of Sleeping Beauty and The Beast is constantly interrupted by the actors coming back to reality and adding other elements to their adventure. Their tale starts to become more and more extravagant as the friends decide to add random characters such as a scary ghost, a flying lobster, a talking box of cereal or even Santa Claus (“to make it more Christmassy!”). The set of characters who follow each other on stage are all priceless and showcase the range of the actors, who are able to change characters with extreme fluidity. We meet Captain Hook, Gaston, The King of Rats, a mummy, the big bad wolf, the dwarf Sleepy, and many more. And in typical pantomime fashion, the stage (designed by Emily Bestow) is as colourful and bizarre as the story.
The audience is enthusiastically engaged, as they are drawn in by the actors to participate in helping detective Sleeping Beauty find clues. It was heart-warming to see the investment of the younger public, who exulted at every discovery, gasped at every plot twist and laughed at every joke. In an age where kids are likely to be desensitised to theatre and other forms of art, it is more important than ever to provide a sensibilisation to art from a young age, and the children in the audience seemed delighted to be there. Everything in this play, from the charismatic quintet of actors to the fun storytelling aspect will charm kids, families, or even fun-loving adults. Get your tickets at https://bac.org.uk/whats-on/sleeping-beauty-the-beast/
Reviewed by Céline Galletti- Celine is a volunteer writer for Abundant Art. Originally from France and Italy, she follows her passion for writing and art by studying Comparative Literature at UCL, London. As an international student living in London, she is determined to fully experience and understand the city’s vibrant arts scene, and be a part of its creative storm.