Writer and Director: Richard Gauntlett
Reviewer: Lu Greer
The tree lights are twinkling, presents are being wrapped, and there’s still no sign of snow. This can only mean two things: Christmas is coming and Richard Gauntlett has got a giant multi-coloured dress on again. The Theatre Royal Norwich panto is once again written and directed by Gauntlett, with him also taking on his traditional role of the dame, in this year’s Sleeping Beauty. But with more and more pantomimes taking on new and less traditional stories, the choice of one of the most well-known pantos immediately raises the question: will it leave the audience snoozing?
The show opens in the 1900s and allows the costumes and props to make a statement from the opening curtain, bringing the show to life. This, combined with the opening medley introducing Glenn Adamson, sets the show off to a strong start. Once Elizabeth Carter is introduced as Patience (Sleeping Beauty) it is clear that her voice should be one of the high points of the show. Unfortunately, Carter is rather underutilised in the show and her voice makes only a few appearances. Starring opposite her is Adamson as the Honourable Timothy Norbridge and Stephen Godward as his father Lord Teddy Norbridge. Godward’s previous opera pedigree is evident throughout in his voice, but far more impressively in his comic timing as he literally sleepwalks through much of the second act. The costumes (Kirsteen Wythe) and sets achieve the seemingly impossible as the show jumps forward in time to the modern day and everything become even bigger and brighter. Indeed, the darkened castle scene featuring some glowing skeletons is perhaps the best moment of the show. And not just because of Derek Griffiths’ rendition of UpTown Funk.
The costumes (Kirsteen Wythe) and sets achieve the seemingly impossible as the show jumps forward in time to the modern day and everything become even bigger and brighter. Indeed, the darkened castle scene featuring some glowing skeletons is perhaps the best moment of the show. And not just because of Derek Griffiths’ rendition of UpTown Funk.
Reuniting on the stage once more are the duo of Richard Gauntlett portraying Mrs. Midges and Ben Langley as Muddles. In this pairing, everything that can be wonderful about panto is evident, from the dismantling of the fourth wall, the boundless energy, to the genuine delight they clearly take from being on the stage. As with every Gauntlett panto, there is a moment which will have the audience giggling long into next week, and as is usually the case that moment comes once again from this pair as they try in vain to repair a broken water feature.
There are some issues with the story, and while the plot is never the focus of panto, it seems to take even more of a back seat than usual at some points, and is perhaps more of a series of scenes put together than a narrative. The show also suffers from one or two jokes which are dated enough to become uncomfortable, and the usual wayward prop issues.
Any concerns about his panto being a snooze are well and truly put to bed by the final curtain. With Derek Griffiths’ dancing, Richard Gauntlett’s dresses, and Stephen Godward’s sleepwalking easily eliciting enough laughs to cover the cracks. This panto may not quite run like a dream, but don’t sleep on getting tickets.
Runs until: Sunday 14th January, 2018 | Image: Contributed