Diane Parkes speaks to Alex Clatworthy about her stage debut in a Disney classic given a modern twist.
For actress Alex Clatworthy the Birmingham Repertory Theatre Company production of Sleeping Beauty really is a fairytale come true – as she plays the title role in her first professional stage show.
The 26-year-old finished her training at Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London this summer and was lucky enough to gain a prize part straight out of college.
“It really is a dream come true,” says Alex, who has already worked extensively in amateur stage and on television.
“It is a great production to be in as it is a real ensemble piece with everyone working together. And it is great fun to be working on a Christmas show. What I really like about it is that it is for kids but everything is being really thought out. There is a lot of discussion about the narrative clarity.”
If audiences are expecting the usual Sleeping Beauty they need to think again as writer Rufus Norris has gone back to basics.
“It certainly isn’t the Disney version which most people know,” says Alex.
“That was the story I knew and when I first saw the script I thought they had added all this crazy stuff in. I couldn’t imagine how they were going to piece it all together. But actually they have gone back to the original story.”
Based on the tale by French writer Charles Perrault, this is a darker Sleeping Beauty than a sugar-coated pantomime.
So Norris throws all kinds of lesser known ingredients into the mix including ogres, troublesome fairies – and Sleeping Beauty as a mum.
“There are actually two Sleeping Beauties in the story,” says Alex.
“There is the adolescent who has never been allowed outside. She is stroppy because she has always been locked in. She is a frustrated and pent-up teenager.
“But then, after she has been asleep, she is a mother and it is very interesting because now she no longer has her parents and has to face everything herself. And she has to do so as a mother.”
But Alex says it makes for a more interesting story.
“It has depth to it,” she says. “It is a story about children growing up and all they can face.”
The production is also a musical with many of the actors playing instruments, including Alex on double bass.
“The music and the instruments are integral to the show,” she says.
“It is like they become characters themselves. And the cast is very talented. I can play the double bass and the ukelele but I don’t count myself as an actor musician but there are others in the cast who are amazing musicians. And what has been nice is that this isn’t all dictated beforehand.”
With the Repertory Theatre currently closed as it undergoes renovations as part of the project to join the building to the new city library, the cast are rehearsing in the company’s current space in Hockley.
And Alex says she is loving being in that part of the city.
“It is really pretty, particularly at this time of year,” she says. “I had never been to Birmingham before so I didn’t really know what to expect but we are making sure we have time to see the city. We have already got a regular curry house.
“And it will be the perfect place to do all of my Christmas shopping.”
Not that Alex, who comes from Cardiff, and her fellow cast members have much of a Christmas break.
“I will go home for Christmas but we only have one day off. We have a performance on Christmas Eve and we are back for Boxing Day.”
Sleeping Beauty is being staged at the city’s Crescent Theatre while the Rep Theatre Company’s production of The Snowman is at the ICC Theatre.
* Sleeping Beauty, Birmingham Crescent Theatre, Nov 23-Jan 14, The Snowman, ICC Theatre, Dec 16-31, tickets: 0121 236 4455, www.birmingham-rep.co.uk