Gender swap Sleeping Beauty panto defended by Bristol theatre

Sleeping Beauty at the Bristol Old Vic
Image caption Bristol Old Vic has replaced the unconscious Beauty with a prince called Percy and the traditional kiss with administered CPR

A decision to cast a man in the title role of Sleeping Beauty has been defended by a theatre.

The panto, at the Bristol Old Vic, has replaced the unconscious princess with a prince called Percy and swapped the traditional kiss for CPR.

Despite being rewritten to appeal to a modern audience, the gender swap has caused controversy.

But producer Chloe Elwood said: "There's always been a tradition of playing with gender at Christmas."

The decision has caused some controversy in the national press, with Conservative MP Peter Bone telling The Sun newspaper it was "political correctness gone mad".

Written by the Grimm Brothers in 1812, Sleeping Beauty has traditionally seen an inert helpless princess, patiently waiting to be awakened from her slumber by a kiss from Prince Charming.

But the Bristol Old Vic production has put Prince Percy into a deep sleep while it falls on a young feisty heroine to rescue him with cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

'Not especially radical'

"Sleeping Beauty is often very passive - she's seen as the passive heroine who gets rescued and that's not incredibly helpful in the 21st century ," said director Sally Cookson.

"So that's why I wanted to spice things up a little bit and swap it - just for a bit of fun really."

The show's producer, Ms Elwood, admits it is "quite a long way" from the traditional tale but said it is not "especially radical".

"Panto has traditionally been full of men playing women, girls playing boys - it's all very much in the spirit of the fun we expect at Christmas," she said.

"Sally's not doing anything that's especially radical, I think what people have got upset about is the notion of a high-fibre diet of feminism."

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