Perth duo de-Disney ‘Sleeping Beauty’ for Fringe World

Ian SInclair

Ian Sinclair

Perth performing artists Ian Sinclair and Renee Newman are reimagining the tale of Sleeping Beauty for an all-new show at Fringe World. The show sets out to explore sleep, how it is disrupted, how it disrupts and asking whether, in life, we are collectively asleep at the wheel.

Graeme Watson caught up with the two writer/performers ahead of their Fringe launch.

How did this show come about?

Ian Sinclair: Rene came to me with the idea of staging a modern retelling of Sleeping Beauty. It’s not one of my favourites – I kind of hate it. But that’s what originally interested, the challenge of creating a dark but fun live show about sleep.

I’ve always really loved fairytales. They are a great texts to take into the rehearsal room, tear apart and play with on the floor because of the beauty and horror that exists all at once in these worlds; you learn about cruelty and kindness, good and evil, but in ways that are skewed and supernatural. The more

Renee Newman: A mutual interest in the ambiguity of the myth – a sense of what does it mean to have no control over what is forced upon you and waking up to this. And then it went from there – dreams, sleep experiments, sleep cycles, the variations of the sleeping beauty story and so on

What’s it like working with each other?

IS: Sharing and collaboration is what making theatre is all about. Rene looks at things from a more philosophical stand-point. She was really made me think about why this story is relevant now? If Sleeping Beauty was told for the first time today what would it look and feel like? Who would she be beyond a fabulously pretty, yawning princess?

We shared a lot of personal stories about a sleep, dreams, nightmares we’ve had.

RN: Stimulating, hilarious, maddening, ain’t no falling asleep in our sessions.

Sleep is a fascinating topic, considering we spent 1/3 of our life asleep, what’s your relationship with sleep like?

IS: I’m a bit of a night-owl. I do try to do the eight hour thing. But it never really works out.

RN: Complicated. I’m in awe of people who are completely comfortable with sleep. I talk, walk, shout, laugh, cry, punch – when I sleep. Probably do all things I wish I could do awake.

This show takes inspiration from ‘Sleeping Beauty’ – what do you think of that story in its traditional form?

IS: We’re used to the more whimsical, kid friendly versions. We looked at the darker adaptations collected by the Brothers Grimm, Basile and Charles Perrault. Where there are no straightforward morals and the ever-afters aren’t so happy.

In the oldest texts, the prince is cruel and selfish, the princess is a super victim. We’ve stripped a lot these elements away. Our version features characters who might exist today, people who’s sleep and dream worlds have invaded their daily lives.

RN: There are many renditions of the story – the Germanic from the 14th century involves a Valkyrie and a ring of fire, the Italian in the 16th century is Talia, the moon and the sun and is essentially a rape story, then the French and later the Brothers Grimm which sanitises the story to a kiss which then leads us to the Disney. The story for me is about a young girl who has everything done to her, things completely out of her control, including her waking up. I find that sad. So partly a reimagining is about taking the notion of others/other things controlling your life and being courageous enough to take back that control.

Does our reliance on technology stop us from sleeping?

IS: There’s research to suggest both good and bad. From what I understand our relationship to sleep is more to do with our changing work lives culturally, and a need to be plugged in 24/7 to electronic devices. It was only at the turn of the twentieth century that the idea of an eight-hour sleep became normal and this is changing again.

We did a lot of research into the science of sleeplessness and the history of Dream Research. All the multiple theory’s about the function sleep and purpose of dreams. How technology has re-wired the way we learn and therefor dream is pretty fascinating.

RN: Possibly. Certainly watching hundreds of flashing images before you sleep can’t help or reliance on devices that keep us in contact with the world 24/7 destabilises peace and calm. I often need to practice mindfulness to help fall asleep

What’s the longest you’ve ever slept for?

IS: I’m not sure – I do like nanna naps and I’m not really a morning person. But more power to those people that are.

RN: 12 hours. But I was sick. Sleep is so important. Sleep deprivation is an act of torture (figuratively and literally). We know that sleep is a necessary medication for a sick body but we also know now that we need sleep to continue our cognitive development – we work out what happened during our day in our sleep and we learn intellectually and emotionally from this. Amazing!

Other than your own show, what other Fringe World shows are you excited about?

IS: There’s so much on it’s hard to choose! Looking to laugh till you cry? Dave: TRIGGER WARNING by the hilarious Zoe Coombs Marr at DeLuxe.  Looking for a date night? The Man And The Moon by the super talented heart throb St John Cowcher. If you’re looking for a unique, one- of-a-kind experience Grr Nights at The Blue Room Theatre, where local artist Steven J Finch’s is living handmade yurt (Grr) for the entire festival and created his own mini-festival inside and around the theatre. I’m really excited for Snake/Bad Adam by Dosh Luckwell and Jay Robinson. That’s my hot ticket pick.

RN: 17 border crossings. Resort Apocalypse, the Great Rudolpho. Anything at Summer Nights

Catch Sleeping Beauty at PICA from Tuesday 2nd – Saturday 6th February. Tickets available at

Graeme Watson


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