East AngliaPantomimeReview

Sleeping Beauty: The Fairy’s Tale – Theatre Royal, Norwich

Reviewer: Lu Greer

Writer: Joe Tracini
Additional Material: Richard Gauntlett
Director: Christ Cuming

Sleeping Beauty is a staple of the panto season, with plenty of opportunity for fairies, wishes, and happily ever afters. Of course, a story in which the princess spends the entire second act taking a nap until a man shows up to fix everything is more than a little problematic and is one in need of an update. And that’s a challenge that Joe Tracini, with support from Richard Gauntlett, has taken on in Norwich this year.

In this incarnation of Sleeping Beauty we have a self-aware princess making her own choices throughout the show thanks to Millie O’Connell’s Rose, although her main drive is still very much finding a prince (Karl Queensborough). Queensborough is certainly a show stealer here, clearly taking inspiration from Ken he is the quintessential prince with facial expressions that never cease to amuse the audience. The nods to his tenure as Hamilton are added well in the first act, with just a short refrain to play him out, but the choice to attempt to write a rap in the style of the Alexander Hamilton opener to start act two just feels awkward and uncomfortable.

Richard Gauntlett, appearing once again as the dame is as fun as ever (and even has a few new jokes), and it must be said that he might have outdone himself this year with his final bauble gown. Joe Tracini, as the Good Fairy, who also sports a few impressive outfits, is as chaotically excellent as always. Taking us through the story of his first job as a Fairy, he has perfected a manner which leaves it impossible to tell if everything is going just as he planned or is spiralling quickly out of his control.

There is an excellent supporting cast, with better choreography than previous years and a strong junior ensemble who feel like a real part of the show instead of a token effort. It must also be mentioned that Chloe Way of the ensemble is an absolute standout; her energy is fantastic and she elevates the scenes throughout.

While there is a real effort in this script to modernise things and use the panto as a means to make an actual point, it does at times fall back into the formulaic style of years past which sits a little at odds with the rest of the show and feels a little as though some scenes have just been dropped into the script. This is a real shame because there are some great moments and ideas mixed in throughout this, none more so than the ending. The final scene gives space for Joe Tracini to take centre stage and remind us that the world may not be as magic as the panto, it may not be as shiny, but just by getting out of bed every morning each of us makes it a little more special. It’s not a typical panto closing but it’s an important one, and one that this reviewer would welcome as a new tradition.

There are moments in this panto where a glimmer of an untapped potential can be seen, and it’s a shame that it isn’t seen throughout. As Joe Tracini’s first time writing the panto it’s clear that he’s a man with a plan, and this reviewer, for one, is looking forward to seeing where he goes with it next year. That being said, this is a show full of jokes, laugher, sequins, and bad puns, and isn’t that what the season is all about? (Oh, yes it is).

Runs Until: 7 January 2024

The Reviews Hub Score

Chaotically Magical

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The Reviews Hub - South East

The South East team is under the editorship of Nicole Craft. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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