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Sleeping Beauty – Royal & Derngate Theatre, Northampton

Writer: Jon Conway

Director: Sam Kane

Reviewer: Sue Dixon

Sleeping Beauty Royal &Derngate Robert DayThe ingredients of a traditional pantomime have surely got to include a recognisable plot, songs to lift the spirits, jokes to groan at and a sense of involvement – i.e. audience participation of the rowdy kind. Husband and wife team Linda Lusardi and Sam Kane along with a talented cast bring all these ingredients to Northampton this Christmas season.

This pantomime is marketed with something of a twist – the expectation of a 3D experience and ‘unusual adventure’, which is interesting given that theatre is the embodiment of a 3D experience, isn’t it? But it proves to be a very interesting addition to the traditional panto.

The Derngate is a bit of a barn of a theatre and it takes a capable cast to establish the excellent rapport with the audience early on. Sam Kane, as Oddjob, demonstrates his full and commanding stage presence with vocals to match. He easily engages a multi-generational audience and booms his lines with great aplomb. Equally impressive is Andy Jones who plays Muddles the court jester. With natural comedic timing and the establishment of a quick rapport with the audience, he continues to draw all the empathy, with cheers for him and boos for anyone on stage with him at the time. He is a naturally funny guy. Linda Lusardi manages to embody the bad witch syndrome surprisingly well and doesn’t try to sing too much, delivering lines in ‘characterful’, well enunciated voices, which works well. She is one of the most glamorous bad women of panto you will ever wish to see but the audience positions her with all the boos and hisses she needs.

This version of Sleeping Beauty keeps broadly to the traditional telling, although the second half is rather thin on plot, focusing more on slapstick comedy, magic and an audience sing-a-long; not unexpected ingredients of course. The prince still gets his girl and the happy ever after ending is maintained; albeit a bit hurriedly.

The set and costumes are all traditional and sequined aplenty, in keeping with the fairy story expectations of any member of the audience, young or old. The finale costumes of Christmas golds and reds make for a particularly, spectacular visual ending.

The 3D effects are remarkable. Transported through the use of 3D spectacles distributed at the start, the thorns and deep dark forest of the witches spell take on a whole new dimension.Anyone a bit sceptical about the inclusion of such technical ‘wizardry’ within a traditional dramatic form need not be upset. When you experience snakes, ghouls and giant spiders right in front of your face, you’ll be hard pressed not to scream like the rest of the audience. That said, very young children may not enjoy the experience – although simply taking the glasses off immediately relieves the intensity of the weird and scary dramatics.

The whole cast look like they are having a great time, with warmth between many of the cast very apparent. The feel good factor along with the magic of technology makes for an, almost, traditional panto night out.

Picture: Robert Day |Runs until Sunday 5 January 2014

Writer: Jon Conway Director: Sam Kane Reviewer: Sue Dixon The ingredients of a traditional pantomime have surely got to include a recognisable plot, songs to lift the spirits, jokes to groan at and a sense of involvement - i.e. audience participation of the rowdy kind. Husband and wife team Linda Lusardi and Sam Kane along with a talented cast bring all these ingredients to Northampton this Christmas season. This pantomime is marketed with something of a twist - the expectation of a 3D experience and 'unusual adventure', which is interesting given that theatre is the embodiment of a 3D experience,…

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