Director: Kully Thiarai
Writers: Matthew Bugg and Tobias Oliver
Reviewer: Andrew White
It’s that time of year again for theatres all over the land to switch into Panto mode (Oh, yes it is!) and Doncaster’s CAST is no exception. In fact, the CAST Pantomime is something of a tradition – even if this is only the venue‘s third one. It’s where the theatre opens its doors to its biggest audiences, and acts almost as a showcase for the rest of the year.
As with the previous CAST festive offerings, Sleeping Beauty is directed by Artistic Director Kully Thiaraiand is written by the same team of Matthew Bugg and Tobias Oliver – with Bugg also serving as Musical Director and reprising his music rôle on stage too.
Bugg and Oliver know how to adapt a story everyone knows and inject it with a fresh twist, along with the odd local references and more than the odd double entendre. In fact, it’s possible the script this year contains a little too much double entendre, as it’s hard to get away from it. However, it is done in the best possible taste and is balanced by a few well-chosen elements of satire. Bugg and Oliver are also big on making the story happen now, so there are ample Star Wars references dotted throughout the show, including a very well set-up gag regarding the names of two of the characters, winning the praise of the more thinking members of the audience.
Several of the cast of last year’s Aladdin must have enjoyed it in Doncaster, as they return and there’s an element this year’s performance is better for them being familiar with the local audience and the venue.
Brett Lee Roberts returns for his third Cast pantomime – this time as Dame Titiana’s son Lucas Mucus – and has a lot more to do than in last years’ Aladdin rôle as Wishee Washee. This is certainly a good call, as he is both a master of comic faces and timing, as an elaborate sequence with an imaginary spider’s web, a ladder and a mop attests to. He is also a more-than-able compare, as his handling of the obligatory audience sing-along section along with his on-stage mother shows.
Alan French knows exactly how to play Pantomime Dames, and as Dame Titiana, he resurrects his Widow Twanky character from last years’ Aladdin, playing the script for all the laughs contained within. Patrick Bridgman, as King Danum, again handles the rôle perfectly and George Bray plays the teenage Prince George with suitable obnoxiousness.
Of course, there’s always a villain, and Esther-Grace Button’s Fairy Nightshade is particularly evil; clearly relishing the opportunity to go overboard in the rôle. Her use of pauses and facial expressions adds a cold, calculating aspect to her character, one which emphasises one of several plot twists in the script.
Beth Hinton-Lever as Aurora/Rosie does well with the small part she has, which during the somewhat steady firstpart, seems strange as surely she has the title rôle. But in the more fast-paced second part, more plot twists reveal it is actually Sarah Kate Howarth’s character of Bramblebriar – Rosie’s true love – who has a more central rôle.
However, the stand out performance is Clara Darcy as Fairy Flora, who has a more beefy rôle here than with traditional “Fairy Godmother” parts. Her singing voice is powerful and clear, and she has one of the most expressive faces, which she uses always to her advantage. And her trumpet playing is outstanding.
Trumpet playing skills are needed, as the music is again played live on stage by the cast – which can be no mean task – and the lighting, sound choreography and design are all up to CAST panto’s usual high standards.
The cleverest part of the script was the emphasis of the relationships at the end, and the changing of which kiss was actually the most importantwas inspired. However, the desire to change the conventions of the story aroundwas slightly let down by the seeming moving of the traditional end ensemble scene, to the third-to–last, which meant the end was less of a bang but more of a slight fizzle.
But that said, do the audience leave happier than when they went in? Certainly they do. And is that not the true purpose of any panto? Oh,yes it is!
Runs until 3 January 2016 | Image:Alex &Janet Durasow A D Photography