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Dark, intoxicating and weirdly festive; REVIEW: The Sleeping Beauties, Sherman Cymru, Cardiff.

THINK kids' theatre at Christmas has to be all Cinder-laddin and the Beanstalk, starring last year's I'm A Celebrity... reject of choice, and served up with a bucketload of "oh no it isn't"s? Well think again, because Sherman Cymru's spellbinding production of The Sleeping Beauties presents an altogether cooler, darker vision of this heartiest of winter theatrical fare.

This production was a galaxy away from the traditional panto - and more like a modern day twist on the Brothers Grimm, directed by Tim Burton.

Set in an otherworldly fairy tale world complete with traditional archetypes, it tells of two innocents - the princess and her low-born friend - thrust into a cruel world. Loosely based on Sleeping Beauty it lends this most familiar of stories an ethereal chill that brought to mind the sensibilities of novelist Angela Carter or cult children's animated fantasy Coraline.

And thanks to the dazzling set and staging, the claustrophobic sense of the deep, dark forest is rendered all too palpable, while the unspecified setting and era just add to the general disquiet.

The tone may tend towards the gothic, yet it was nothing my youngest child, aged five, couldn't handle.

But there are plenty of lighter moments too such as the daffy dance scenes and the giddy gangly rollerskating Prince who brings a nice levity to proceedings.

The production contains stunning performances all round but particular plaudits go to Lisa Jen Brown as the improbably named Fertility Wife, in a role in which she has to deliver a powerful singing performance on top of her acting demands which cast - if you'll pardon the pun - a witch in a sympathetic light.

As dark, intoxicating and weirdly festive as a Christmas glass of Tia Maria, The Sleeping Beauties is aptly bewitching, spellbinding, enchanting. This is a beautiful, unsettling take on a familiar classic.

The Sleeping Beauties is at Sherman Cymru, Cardiff, until January 4. Call the box office on 029 2064 6900 or visit Tryst Williams
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Dec 13, 2013
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