Writer: Andrew Ryan
Director: Andrew Margerison
Reviewer: John Roberts
It’s been five years since UK Productions took over the tender to produce the yearly pantomime at New Brighton, bringing with them stronger productions, bigger production values and better names. It would appear on first look like Sleeping Beauty has the right ingredients to make this the best show in their run so far.
The first act of this well known fairy tale whizzes along at breakneck speed, the cast are on fire and the chemistry between them is tangible – one puts this down to the fact they all performed this same show last year together in Mansfield, However, it’s great to see they are still attacking the show with plenty of energy and commitment. None more so than from the excellent Adam Moss as Silly Billy, he whizzes around the stage like a Duracell bunny on speed, he has a great rapport with the audience and never fails to bring a sense of mischief to proceedings.
Vicky Entwistle gives a pleasurable performance as the evil Carabosse – not quite as menacing as she could be, but clearly relishes her rôle in Pantoland especially during her Act Two opening number. Sarah Jane Buckley is a splendid Good Fairy and her Somerset lilt adds to her warmness – a shame, though, that she is left to sing most of the lesser known songs in the show, some updating would help enormously. Marcus Knibbs, as the King, gives a jolly performance and his rap attack with Moss is a real highlight.The prince is given a level of sophistication thanks to Richard Meek.
Few pantos are complete without a Dame and here long time professional Charles Burden takes the reigns of Nanny Glucose, and this is where the script starts to come under scrutiny. We are never really introduced to the character or why she’s there; it’s as if the Dame in Andrew Ryan’s script is a bolt-on to proceedings to tick a panto box, rather than really incorporating the character. Also, Burden, while a pleasant enough Dame, seriously needs to update his material, jokes as old as time and some that perhaps cross the line a little for a family audience. Likewise the second act also falls short of its excellent first half. The rescue of Sleeping Beauty – who is played with finesse and charm by Amy Thompson delights her audience, especially with a surprisingly excellent vocal performance too, peaks all too quickly and leaves the show with a massive 45 minutes to fill, and that’s what happens – lots of filler scenes including a rather misplaced mop scene – which is more at home in Dick Whittington than Sleeping Beauty.
Director Andrew Margerison has delivered a fast-paced and slickly produced pantomime that provides plenty of fun – the magic mirror scene is a hoot and a stunning lighting design provided by Joe Dowling brings plenty of colour to the proceedings. An enjoyable evening in Pantoland with a first-rate cast, but one that is sadly let down by a lack of imagination in the script writing.
Runs until 3 January 2016 | Image: Contributed