Sleeping Beauty

Promotional image and poster design for the performance installation Sleeping Beauty by Barely There.

In this modern theatrical re-imagining, a classic fairy tale becomes a story about the unconscious desires that drive us, the conscious deeds that define us and the spiritual journeys that we take in order to find, or rather to create, ourselves. Operating through the mysterious and absurd logic of dreams, this performative collage, in which the poetic language of Prague-born Rainer Maria Rilke meets Carl Gustav Jung’s idea of the collective unconscious, explores themes of identity, memory, love, loss and longing. This is not the “Sleeping Beauty” of our childhood, but a dark and atmospheric take on the ever-present struggle between the visceral and the cerebral aspects of the self.

As the set design included the extensive use of feathers around the performance space, these were used for the promotional image. The wished effect was to create an image that was bold and dark, yet sensitive.

Performed: Summer 2017
Locations: Prague (CZ) & Barnstaple (UK)

REVIEW: Sleeping Beauty
By Elliott Grant

Lured up the weathered stone steps by music, we are lead through a heavy wooden door into a dreamscape under construction. Benches are strewn about the space, ladders, draped in sheets, punctuate the scene. The whole thing is bathed in a warm light and completely flooded with feathers.

This bizarre image, albeit striking, seemed almost natural, embraced in the intimate grandeur of St Anne’s Chapel. The choice of location fed so seamlessly into the performance, it imbued each moment with captivating timelessness.

We are each invited to find any place amongst the comfortable chaos in which to nestle, and after a short while, (ample time for us all to become lost in our own little worlds) the music fades and the dulcet tones of Beauty’s thoughts are revealed to us in eloquent monologue.

Together, we are lead through intimate depictions of longing and loss, with the idea of sleep as a serene protest against the conscious hustle and bustle of life outside. This is intertwined with beautifully selected music, and one can’t help but be unsuspectingly lead into deeper and deeper introspection.

Throughout this I found myself, and noticed others too, focusing on smaller parts of the scene in which we were sat; it was as if each thought, note, or idea was accompanied by the small dances that the feathers performed. Each was propelled by the slightest draught, breath or movement from the surrounding audience, who by now had become equally part of the scenery.

I am only broken from this trance when I am handed a mug of warm milk and a notepad which invited me to scrawl whatever came to mind, it also offered tantalising questions in its various pages, such as ‘Where is the most beautiful place you have fallen asleep?’.

Eventually, however, we all have to wake up. The performance was drawn to a close as the archaic door was opened and we each began to slowly, and somewhat reluctantly, filter out of the venue.

Barely There have created a memorable and truly entrancing experience, drifting somewhere between theatre and poetry, that is drenched in a dishevelled elegance. It’s impossible not to be moved by the stunning ethereal atmosphere of ‘Sleeping Beauty’, which much like the feathers, clung to each of us, long after we stepped back into the real world.