It should be made very clear that from the off, this is not a show for children. When Collette Garrigan calls her shoes FMPs (“f**k me pumps”), I found myself cringing for the mother of the 6-year-old girl in the audience. Sleeping Beauty is a dark fairy tale about the demons of Garrigan’s youth: her father’s death, her witch of a grandmother, and a syringe-induced coma under which her Sleeping Beauty falls.
The story is deeply personal, but to the extent that it feels intrusive to watch. The hour of narrative predominantly focuses on poverty, and swiftly passes over the “nice chapter” – that of Garrigan’s relationship with her teenage sweetheart. The pathos would have been greater for having had a larger window into the happier moments of the performance, and its short lived stage time damaged the pacing of the piece. Likewise, Garrigan’s style of narrating was far too varied, and I had no idea what to make of her overall tone. At times it was reminiscent of Angela Carter’s Bloody Chamber, but just at these moments it slipped into bawdy jokes which ruined the atmosphere. Garrigan opened and finished her tale on a kindly and interactive tone, and this too seemed to imply a different show entirely.
The vast array of puppetry aided the narrative and kept the performance engaging on the stage. However, some of the more simplistic efforts missed the mark. The toast rack was surprisingly enchanting as a silhouette of the Strand shopping centre, but as a bus seemed puerile and patronising. This style of puppetry was akin to a children’s story, but the naked plastic dolls felt like a confusing art installation. The dissonance of the puppets did not complement the nostalgic 60s Liverpool which served as the setting. Garrigan’s portrayal of Liverpool was bleak, so again there was confusion as to whether the narrative really needed its moments of traditional fairytale audience engagement.
The show was a bit too all over the place to make a real impact. It was less a fairytale and more a confusion of tropes upon an autobiographical story. Interesting, but the moments of controversy overweighed the moments of empathy felt for this production.
Sleeping Beauty is at the Institue Francais d’Ecosse as part of the Edinburgh Fringe.