Produced by performance makers Ian Sinclair and Renee Newman, Sleeping Beauty is a dark, lo-fi contemporary adaption of the traditional fairy tale. The fifty-minute play weaves in concepts from sleep science and surreal dreams with a conscious gravity to the delusional realities faced by Tahlia and Oscar- insomniacs of the ‘Dream Motel’. Oscar is an adult gamer with a childlike complex, whose infatuation with an online fantasy game has compelled him to believe “everyone in the real world is fake”. An endearing character, he brings sporadic comic relief to this eerie, reinvented fable. Tahlia is a mother plagued by recurring nightmares that endanger the safety of her loved ones.

Image by Karen Lowe
Image by Karen Lowe

These two protagonists are ‘guests’ of a sleep clinic, wearing uniformed striped pyjamas and consuming questionable drugs. They reflect a sense of innocence and vulnerability in their failures to overcome their plagued dreams, characterising them as the modern day ‘Sleeping Beauties’.

Two elements I appreciated most in this production were the enticing allusions made to William Blake’s poem “The Tyger”; a vivid poetic symbol that is tangled amongst the inner conflict of the protagonists. Also, the self-aware dialogue between Newman and Sinclair referencing their transition into secondary characters. These raw moments cleverly replicated the surreal nature of dreams and their nonsensical procedure of collaging multiple environments and characters.

Sound production by singer-songwriter and local gem Mei Saraswati strongly complimented the supernatural and weary dream-like nature of the play. Floating soundscapes faintly echoed ‘bouncy’ music and chants asking “are you in my dreams?”. Lighting design by Chris Donnelly was carefully mediated between intense and softer scenes.

Ultimately, Newman and Sinclair delivered a fulfilling theatrical experience made unique by their natural chemistry onstage. This is an evocative and exceptional take on the original tale.

Words by Gabby Loo

Sleeping Beauty ran in PICA as part of Fringe World Festival.

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