Sunday, 20 October 2019

THEATRE REVIEW: Sleeping Beauty - Theatre Royal, St. Helens.


October felt rather early to be enjoying a pantomime but as I ushered my four year old grandson into his seat I could feel the excitement and eager anticipation of the audience building before Sleeping Beauty started. Young girls dressed in their princess party dresses and young boys with their multi-coloured lit-up swords looked towards the stage with wide-eyed wonderment as the curtain rose and the show started.

Billed as ‘The most spellbinding panto of them all’ Producer and Director Chantelle Nolan, along with Jane Joseph, were able to whisk the audience away to a land of magical adventure where Princess Aurora (Mia Molloy) is tricked by villainous Fairy Carabosse (Samantha Palin) into an eternal slumber which can only be broken by a kiss from her true love. James Lacey played the handsome Prince, Lewis Devine excelled as Chester The Jester and Warren Donnelly, best known for starring in TV series Shameless, played the King. Si Foster provided plenty of laughs and slapstick chaos as Dame Queenie and Abigail Middleton delivered plenty of delightful magic as Fairy Sparkle.
Choreographer, Sarah Walker devised the dance routines performed by junior dancers from dance troupes Sparkle – Attitude Dance, and Glitter – Dance Dynamix, along with senior dancers Millie Davies, Jodie Taylor, Georgia Cowin and Ellie Fook whilst musical supervision was undertaken by Callum Clarke. Writer, Liam Mellor has put together an enjoyable two hours of entertainment utilising the talents of the cast to the full albeit in comedy, song and dance.

Devine as Chester The Jester has a full-on part in the entertainment and is to be commended for his versatility and stamina in the role. Reminiscent of comedians Norman Wisdom and Bobby Ball, he was visibly sweating from setting first foot on the stage and kept young and old amused throughout. Although some of his jokes weren’t suitable for youngsters, they had their parents laughing out loud and I’m not sure that the PC brigade would approve of some parts of the script which were rather sexist for this day and age, but hey, that’s something Panto has long been an established provider of.

The one scene which had me and the rest of the audience laughing out loud the most was a scene where Chester The Jester and Dame Queenie were attempting to wallpaper the castle walls. It involved a lot of green wallpaper paste which had them slipping about uncontrollably (not scripted) and Dame Queenie’s wig coming off at the same time, again not scripted. They should definitely keep it all in the script as it was the funniest part of the show, so much so the actors had to hide their faces as they also couldn’t help laughing.

Some current jokes about Boris Johnson, Brexit and Donald Trump had to be included of course along with bottom-burping jokes which are pretty much standard fare in a panto production. Jokes about the local districts near to the theatre, such as Earlestown, Carr Mill and Clock Face went over my head as I am not a resident of the area, but locals seemed to get them and appreciate the jibes. One point to mention is that packets of sweets were at one point thrown into the audience which was a bit scary as they could have been construed as a missile and could possibly have inflicted harm or injury to a child or adult and it’s also difficult to explain to a four year old why he didn’t receive any of the sweets being thrown. Luckily I had a packet of sweets in my bag to give him.

Molloy as Princess Aurora is a talented singer and competent dancer and actor. Lacey as the Prince also performs well and Palin as Fairy Carabosse with her Maleficent horns is excellent as the baddie of the piece. Donnelly as the King and Foster as Dame Queenie are an excellent comedy duo and work well together.

At one point there are flames of fire emitting from the stage and there are fireworks at the end which all added to the excitement and pleasure of a very entertaining production.

Regal Entertainments are presenting Sleeping Beauty at the theatre from 19th – 29th October 2019, which will be convenient for parents wanting to take their youngsters as it covers the half-term school holidays.

Reviewer - Anne Pritchard
on - 19/10/19

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