Written by Sleeping Trees and Ben Hales
Directed by Kerry Frampton
Reindeer? Check. Mince Pies? Burned. Stockings? Stuffed. Pet cat in Moon Boots? Wait…
The festive staples are rolling out once more; when every town has their Pantomime, every village hall their Christmas Carol, and every online producer their festive non-commercialised special. Here, Sleeping Trees are no different. Well actually, if anything, their production of Puss in Moon Boots is VERY different. Smashing together fairy-tale staples with a smattering of festive cheer, Sleeping Trees, in association with Splendid Productions, are taking Christmas to new, quite literal, stratospheric heights.
Borrowing from Pinocchio’s Pleasure Island, this Christmas, the naughtiest of children may find themselves with more than coal in their stockings. After hi-jacking Santa’s sleigh, a monolithic villain rises to encourage the worst of the worst to excel themselves in spreading misery, to tear up the naughty list and embrace a sense of chaos and dread. With his Reindeer out of action, Santa only has one option left – his faithful Puss, lounging by the fire, who has always dreamed of joining their fellow four-legged companion’s Dancer, Comet, and Rudolph on their annual mission.
Sleeping Trees show is a testament to home-brewed grassroots theatre and creative fun and reinforces the timeless aesthetic of battering around the house, grabbing any old bits and bobs and utilising our tremendous skill to set off on an adventure: imagination. Living-room storytelling, the film splits itself between a traditional narrative and more interactive ‘behind-the-scenes’ of prop construction, synergic encounters, and enough cheesy gags to smother a dinner party.
And if anything, parents will likely warm to the humour and comradery the three men share far quicker than children. The lampooning of fairy-tale staples, along with lashings of in-jokes and a self-deprecating nature towards the show’s budget and copyright issues (Dorth Clawz and Bright Sabers a plenty) may mean that Sleeping Trees may find that long after the kids have nodded off, the babysitter is still howling on the sofa.
From Joshua George-Smith’s Flashheart inspired Robo-Cow to John Woodburn’s gentlemanly Tweedle brothers, the colourful rogue’s gallery of characters ensures there’s someone for the audience to rally behind and connect with. James Dunnell-Smith also makes a delightfully pleasant and warming Puss in Moon Boots, cementing the appealing nature for children. Kerry Frampton’s direction evidently allows the cast to play to strengths, and to run riot with a soupcon of control pushed to reign in the personalities of the trio. Though it’s safe to assume if your stand-out character isn’t Plushy Cat as the true Puss, then you likely haven’t paid attention to the nuances of the role.
It’s surreal, and for those not able to make it to a fully-fledged stage production, Sleeping Trees offers an engaging and energetic experience while still packing in a tremendous amount of fun and japery. But there may be a touch too much chaos, even for chocolate-infused audiences, where moments either stretch the joke a whisker too far but there’s usually a sense of merit within an idea or musical numbers. Yes. Musical numbers. Ben Hale’s music serves a purpose, with the audio design having a touch more to add to Shaun Reynolds video editing that, while smooth in transition, does suffer lighting imbalance.
This three-man family pantomime of sorts takes living-room engineering and theatre to levels of energetic bamboozlement and enjoyment. Fizzing with innovation and creative comradery, what Sleeping Tree’s Puss in Moon Boots possesses more than anything is a cheerfully surreal grasp of character comedy and storytelling.
Puss in Moon Boots is available to stream here until January 10th
Review published for The Reviews Hub