Review: Sleeping Beauty

29th January 2016

A pantomime featuring characters from at least four other well loved pantos is a good idea. I have loved panto from age four and so why not get more panto characters for my money, so to speak! Not that NODA reps have to pay at all, which along with the now customary warm and attentive welcome we always get at Ewhurst almost guarantees a good review! Though even we well treated reps do actually care about what goes on stage more than in front of house.

There was much to like and admire in this fizzy, fast paced production, not least the novel idea of three good fairies, one of whom failed to speak in rhyme. A nice touch this, beautifully pitched by Jeannie Metcalf, Victoria House and Sophie Shickell as Fairies Lilac, Lavender and Lupin, the faulty one, respectively. The evil Deadly Nightshade with ” horrible” horns and stick was the epitome of traditional panto baddies with a good stage presence and great diction.

Winifred Slaptickle is not a name associated with anything other than a Dame and Peter Bradlley brought this dotty, lovable character to highly amusing life with charisma and some splendid costumes. As her idiot son, Harry the Jester, we were given a professional standard performance from the splendid Barry Harrison-Fudge, who dominated the stage throughout. Harry as the children’s friend was a cornerstone of this production.

Victoria Arnold was a goodness personified, squeaky clean, and rather talented Princess Rose, awoken from her long sleep by a kiss from the “handsome” (in a very feminine way) Prince William, with the traditional thigh slapping. Claire Williams played this principal boy role with much charm and no little charisma, matching those shown by the principal girl, Victoria. They made a most believable and well matched pair of lovers in the lead roles.

As parents to the Princess, Julia Heathcote and Bill Pilcher fretted most effectively about their infant, rag doll, daughter’s eventual 18th birthday and the curse upon her. Predictably, and thankfully for the plot line, who should arrive on the scene but the evil Deadly Nightshade to kill Rose. But hurray! And who should arrive in the nick of time to convert the power of the poisoned apple into giving just a long sleep, but the three Fairies. This scene was well planned by the highly innovative director in Wendy Davies, ably assisted by Angela Richardson.

Other performances of note came from Natalie Davies as Snivel, Daniel Williams and Felix Cuthbert as the two Henchmen, Chris Dews as Cannibal Chief, Daniel Williams as Herald, Jo McInnes as Goldilocks, Felix Cuthbert again) as Prince Charming, Julia Allan-Patel as Red Riding Hood, Julia Heathcote (again) as Big Blue Balaclava, Barrie Heathcote as Harbour Master et al, and Fabian Cole was a stage hand and paper boy.

There were all the traditional elements required in any decent panto; the Ghost scene to Ghostbusters music, some less than wonderful dancing from three couples to the well chosen “Strictly Ballroom” theme. Love is in the air was amusingly effective by the three fairies who all possessed good comic timing and the Prince. I enjoyed the De -do- ron- ron routine . though it reminded me, sadly, of my age.

The Songsheet, to “The Bear Necessities” in this case “Fairy Recipes” with some welcome children called onstage went smoothly. I actually missed not seeing any children in the cast; “babes” as dancers and chorus add greatly to most pantos. Though believe me, as a director myself, I really do understand the logistical problems this can easily cause.

I would commend the better than usual panto standard music under the command of Simon Fraser, Jane Biggins and Richard van’t Riet. Some fine choices were made and very surely played too.

Costumes were excellent, fitted by a painstaking team of ladies headed by Anne Lyth. Hair and make up too, under Nicki Payne and Sophie Shickell, were of top standard. The sets were simple but looked good.

All in all this was a most enjoyable and well directed and well acted pantomime in the true tradition and the audience certainly enjoyed it, as did I.

Jon Fox
NODA Rep. Area 19
January 2016.