Director: David Samuel
Reviewer: Bill Avenell
Go to see a pantomime at The Connaught and you can be assured that, whatever else, you will get the full works from ‘Look behind you’ to ‘Oh Yes she did’ and from The Wicked Fairy’s lair to the Transformation scene. And this year’s offering of Sleeping Beauty, from Paul Holman Associates, was no exception. Moreover, to The Connaught’s credit the production probably had something for everyone and certainly my elderly companion laughed at the slapstick as much as the Guides ogled the male dancers and the little ones ‘oohed and ahhed’ at the Dreamland tableau.
No doubt the Worthing Theatres are on a strict budget but in true Panto’ style Stephen Wilson’s set was suitably bright and fairy-taleish, Eve Wilkinson’s costumes would have done credit to the London stage while Martin Wright’s lighting also helped to set the fairy-land scene. The only downside in the technical department was the sound which was rather unbalanced so that the bass was too loud and in several of the numbers the voices were drowned by the music. And while on the subject of the music, this production won’t be setting the Broadway stage alight. The musical numbers were poor and although Jon Moses as Prince Rupert tried to be the romantic heart-throb, he was poorly served by his material and both he and the inevitably wet Princess Aurora, played by Sophie Bloom, struggled in vain to lift their scenes together. So let’s get the other negatives out of the way at the same time, largely to do with age I fear. Nikki Kelly as Carabosse, the wicked fairy, was just too doddery to portray any vestige of evilness, Bobby Crush as Katy Cough Drop looked splendid in those costumes and started off well, but seemed to drift in and out of the rumbustious characterisation and both his and Muddles’ (Tony Rudd) material was rather dated.
But don’t get the wrong impression. There was a good feel to this show which the audience certainly responded to from the off. Both Crush and Rudd had their moments. It was great to see a true ‘slapstick’ sequence, excellently timed by Crush and the nicely understated King played by Peter Jamieson. If only they had mimed all of it. Rudd was good with the children and kept the Show moving along at a vigorous pace whenever he was on stage. Helen Peters gave an enjoyably bossy performance as the Lilac Fairy and a special mention goes to both the juniors of the Glendale Theatre Arts School and particularly to James Donaghey and Rhys Owen who may not be the next Wayne Sleep but certainly invested the jolly villagers’ scenes with some real ‘oomph’.
There was a 92 year old on my right, three middle aged women on my left, the Brownies in front and a family with two very young children behind and they all got something out of it so, if Panto is your thing, The Connaught is a good place to start this year.
Sleeping Beauty runs at The Connaught until 5th January.