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The Theatrical Magic of Sleeping Beauty

October 31, 2013

This is the time of year when audiences come to the Globe expecting to be enchanted by theatrical magic as they participate in the tradition of the annual holiday show. Sleeping Beauty is the latest of these singular experiences.

Sleeping Beauty director Courtenay Dobbie.

Sleeping Beauty director Courtenay Dobbie.

Adapted by artistic director Ruth Smillie from the Brothers Grimm fairytale and staged by Courtenay Dobbie, this particular Sleeping Beauty is unlike any other Sleeping Beauty you’ve seen or read or heard. There is a spinning wheel, a pricked finger, and a deep, deep sleep, but those are the only elements that have been retained in this inspired, imaginative retelling of the popular story.

“It’s not the story we all know from Disney,” Dobbie said. “We have opened our eyes to a different version, a different vision.” This version takes place in its own distinct world. It features a puppet dragon and there are fairies. “Lots and lots of fairies,” Dobbie said with emphasis.

This show was dramaturged by Andrew North, the Globe’s executive director, and workshopped last June by Smillie, North, and Dobbie. The fact that she has been involved since the early phases of development is paying dividends because she is also directing. “It was really great to be there in the beginning,” Dobbie said. “That’s very helpful now.”

Over that period there have been some changes, of course, but Dobbie seems satisfied they represented “changes for the better” and by changes she means changes in terms of character dynamics, such things as relationships and motivation. “It’s been growing. It has become more fluid. It is now fully realized,” she said.

It also helps that Dobbie is a choreographer as well as director, not that there’s a lot of song-and-dance in this show, but certainly in the sense that there is a cast of 10 actors who are performing in the round. “The spatial knowledge helps with the blocking and with getting people on and off the stage,” Dobbie said.

 We have opened our eyes to a different version, a different vision.” – Courtenay Dobbie, Sleeping Beauty director

The underlying theme of the show is that of a girl growing up to become a woman, and in keeping with the season, Sleeping Beauty is a celebration of family. “The greatest challenge,” Dobbie said, “is that all we have to work with is lights, set, and costumes.”

Fortunately, Courtenay Dobbie is no stranger to challenges. For the past three years, she has been artistic director of Caravan Farm Theatre, a company she first joined as an actor in 2003. Indeed, immediately after Sleeping Beauty opens at the Globe, Dobbie will hasten back to British Columbia to prepare Caravan’s winter show.

Ironically, and this is strictly a coincidence, that show is also a Brothers Grimm fairytale, the lesser known Little Brother and Little Sister. And if you think theatre in-the-round presents an interesting perspective, you should know that the Caravan production (offered three times a day to audiences of 160 per show) is performed at several locations as befits the promenade style. Spectators are taken from scene to scene by eight horse-drawn sleighs with a ninth sleigh transporting the actors.

It’s interesting that the Globe is doing Sleeping Beauty and Caravan is following up with Little Brother and Little Sister because the Brothers Grimm seem to be enjoying a renewed popularity these days on stage and on screen. “I guess there is something in the air about fairytales,” said Dobbie, who is certainly doing her part.

Nick Miliokas is a freelance writer and editor based in Regina. You can reach him by email at

Sleeping Beauty runs Nov. 20-Dec. 29. For tickets, visit

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