Once Upon a Nightmare (3 stars)

Dynamic adventure play in need of streamlining at Edinburgh Festival Free Fringe


This article is from 2014.

Once Upon a Nightmare

Although there is much to enjoy in this fantasy adventure from Box Step Productions, including some fine performances, there is one overriding problem with Once Upon a Nightmare – it wants to be a film.

It came as no surprise to discover, after seeing the show, that Box Step also has a film wing, because the company obviously has a real eye for what works on-screen. But switching between worlds via a portal, and jumping frantically from scene to scene, is less suited to the theatrical stage.

That said, the story itself provides lots of opportunities for humour, and to a lesser extent, drama – both of which are well milked.

Having been separated from her brother in the magical dream world, Somnia, Sophie spends the next 20 years in a mental hospital, trying to convince Dr Malpractice she didn’t dream the whole thing.

Finally able to go back and rescue her long lost sibling, Sophie encounters a new set of problems to solve, involving more entrances and exits than a French farce.

There are nods to several fantasy films here, and a few actual characters from classics such as The Wizard of Oz and Peter Pan. Throw in a couple of musical numbers and it all makes for a very, full hour.

But there’s something slightly disingenuous about writing ‘Free Entry!’ in uppercase letters on your flyer, and then suggesting punters donate £10 each on the way out. Somewhere along the line, the ‘give what you can’ ethos of the Free Fringe has been lost – and having seen better shows, in paid venues, charging less than £10 a ticket, Box Step left me with a bad taste in my mouth.

Counting House, until 24 Aug, 12.15pm, free.

Once Upon a Nightmare

  • 3 stars

Box Step Productions is formed by identical twins Michael and Paul Clarkson and the genetically unrelated Gemma Hurley in 2012. Their theatrical debut – Death Ship 666! – attracted sell-out audiences and glowing reviews at the Edinburgh Fringe, before transferring to the Leicester Square Theatre in 2013. This…


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