Writer: Eric Potts
Director: David Siebert
Reviewer: Pete Benson
The theatre is full of excited cubs and brownies waving sparkling wands. The lights dim, the band strike up rock stadium loud, cubs and brownies scream and cheer and Sleeping Beauty the panto is under way with the most excellent Andy Collins as Chester the Jester here to guide us through the show. We instantly become members of his gang. Collins is ideal for this rôle; not only is his comic timing perfect but he knows how to think on his feet and work off an audience.
Holly Brewer is Beauty and she certainly looks the part. Her acting has come on leaps and bounds since her appearance here last year as Wendy. This is a much more controlled measured performance and she is in good voice. Just once she ignores the young audience member’s dire warning of doom which she could have used to good effect. The part of the Dame is played by Graham Kent who has not spent a lifetime playing dames and this may be why he is so good in the rôle. Kent feels like he is a part of the ensemble and not just a separate act that comes on and occasionally collides with the script. This script by the way has a little more plot than many pantos do which is welcome.
Chester the Jester takes us back in time to the start of Beauty’s story and we meet the two of them as babies and see them grow up into naughty school children, a nice theatrical device creating two excellent pantomime routines. So far all has been fine but it turns out the show has a cunning plan up its sleeve in the name of Anita Dobson. The star name of the show is also a very fine actress. Dobson as the evil villain Carabosse is brilliant. She has electric stage presence and captures the pantomime villainy perfectly. She has one superb comic routine when she outlines all the evil she will inflict on Beauty, demonstrating it in a kind of scat, punk mime mash up with vocal techno sounds worthy of Steven Berkoff himself with whom she has previously worked. She is in fine singing voice and physically dominates the stage. Christian Lund is the love interest who will save Beauty with a kiss, although after nearly a hundred years he seems to wake beauty with a kiss you might plant on your Granny’s cheek. The supporting dancers are excellent. They are sharp, precise and cracking with energy. They play other minor rôles very effectively. Special mention must go to Frankie Armitage as The Lilac fairy.
Perhaps a few minor gripes, the choreography is workmanlike with a few missed opportunities. A dance where Beauty’s toys come to life and thwart the villain’s machinations could have been a real dramatic show stopper as could a later routine in the villain’s lair. Perhaps a short rehearsal period doesn’t allow for anymore than we get. Does the twelve days Christmas routine have to be in the show every year? Perhaps it does, the audience love it. Sometimes there is a strange choice of songs particularly “Proud Mary” as a finale song. My biggest gripe is being made to sit through a series of cinema style adverts before the show. This cynical approach does not help me quickly suspend my disbelief when the show starts.
However the audience loved every moment and if I may quote the people I went with, ‘There were no slow bits’ and ‘Best panto I’ve seen in long time’. To that I would like to add my thanks to a really top cast, a great opening night.
Picture: Barry Rivett |Runs until 5th January 2014