Writers: Fine Time Fontayne and Kevin Shaw
Director: Kevin Shaw
Reviewer: Ruth Gerrard
It’s that time of year again and Oldham Coliseum are first out of the blocks with the 2016 pantomime; Sleeping Beauty. Renowned for being one of the best in the region; this production does not disappoint.
The story of Briar Rose (Demi Goodman); the princess whose fate is to prick her finger on a spindle on her 16th birthday and fall into the deepest sleep along with everyone else in the palace that can only be broken by love’s true kiss is a well-known one however, few shows can rival Oldham’s unique version.
Local press have recently reported the unexpectedly unavailability of regular dame and show writer Fine Time Fontayne due to injury in rehearsals but this does not stop this powerhouse production. Simeon Truby steps into the role of nanny nutty this year and Fontayne may wish to keep a tight hold of his delightful wardrobe as Truby certainly wore it well. He makes a delightful dame and fills the much loved Doc Martens of Fontayne with aplomb. Having a strong cast of regulars really suits these productions and gives the Coliseum the edge over others as the camaraderie on stage cannot be overlooked. It makes the annual panto feel like a home coming for returning customers but is also warm and inviting to those attending for the first time.
Richard J Fletcher as Norman Nutty and the dark knight has certainly had his Weetabix. The children warm to him instantly as he tirelessly covers several miles across the stage in the course of the evening. Taking the job of developing the show’s catchphrase and inducting the audience into his gang, his enthusiasm and wit cannot fail to raise a smile.
Justine Elizabeth Bailey is well suited to her role as the Principle Boy Valiant and gives Act 2 all the vim and vigour it needs with great thigh slapping indeed. Liz Carney’s Carabosse is suitably scary but with some great one-liners and her interaction with Fletcher in Act 2 is hilarious. Sara Sadeghi is an accomplished Good Fairy but can rush her lines a little which can lead to a slight loss of diction. Goodman making her debut as Briar Rose is suitably sweet and lovely and holds her own among this seasoned cast. The local dancers add the necessary traditional dance support and are well choreographed by Beverley Edmunds.
The only negative of the evening is the quality of the sound. The magnificent band lead by Dave Bintley who create a fantastic accompaniment considering there are three of them continually overpower the actors during the musical numbers. It makes the numbers difficult to hear and when these are pop songs it matters less but it does lessen the impact of the all-important local song sung by Westbrook in Act 2. The vocals become quite distorted and muffled and it means it is difficult to catch what he is saying. The impressive tour of the borough of Oldham through the medium of song becomes lack lustre due to the sound and does not receive the recognition it deserves as much of it has been missed by the audience due to the poor sound quality. This is something that should be easy to rectify and is unfortunately a running feature of the evening affecting all cast members in turn.
Year after year, the Coliseum delivers everything a great pantomime should be. There are songs from a number of genres, dance numbers, the community song, slapstick, audience participation and double-entendre. Traditional does not need to mean boring or old fashioned but sticking to more traditional elements means everyone; no matter how young or old goes home satisfied. Pound for pound, the Coliseum delivers great value and great quality. It is certainly a great way to spend some time over the festive season and its popularity is well deserved; oh yes it is!
Runs until 7 January, 2017 | Image: Joel C Fildes