Theatre Review: Beyond Beauty @ The Last Refuge

Sleeping Beauty is awoken from her years of slumber by a brave prince’s magical kiss. The kiss is so powerful that it rids the land of evil, and the two royal lovebirds live happily ever after. Right? Wrong.

Beyond Beauty tells the story of what really happened after the kiss.

Across from Peckham Rye station, through a dark alleyway, around a corner, lies a hidden theatre – The Last Refuge. A warm candlelit grotto welcomes you in, before ushers hand out blankets as you enter the converted warehouse for this new-age fable.

Brilliant design from James Turner converts the space into a feral, dilapidated medieval castle. High-top trainers meet regal gowns as the classic fairytale is sent crashing into urban London. The play subverts Sleeping Beauty’s original ending, presenting a tale of bankruptcy, sexism and broken magic.

The production takes time to find its rhythm – the rapid switching between the narrator’s monologue and fairytale farce is stunted at first. The story gets bogged down in specifics at points, and at the interval the production rests in the balance. But once in its stride Beyond Beauty is an engrossing watch, challenging idealistic notions of ‘the one true love’ while also providing a number of very funny moments. The Storyteller expects us to play an active part in her story, and the cast feed off this audience interaction.

Sophie Robinson shines as The Princess fighting against her stereotype. Her performance balances impish charm with inner turmoil, a modern-day heroine. A mention also for David Eaton as Jack (of all trades). Eaton juggles numerous roles excellently, jumping from bullish Cockney butcher to pantomime dame in an instant.

Beyond Beauty is a bold production, attacking a tricky text admirably. Shining in its ensemble moments, the play is laugh-out-loud funny and energetically performed – well worth braving the cold to see.

Beyond Beauty runs until 15 December at The Last Refuge, Unit 9a, 133 Copeland Road, Peckham Rye, SE15 3SN. Book tickets soon to avoid missing out.

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