Review: Sleeping Beauty at The Theatre Chipping Norton
"A highly amusing spectacle"
Putting on a pantomime must be a bit like preparing Christmas dinner for an assortment of fully fledged flesh-eaters, vegans, and gluten intolerants. You have to provide something for everyone. Chippy Theatre’s Sleeping Beauty delivers on this front: Andrew Pollard’s script ensures there’s innuendo for the grownups, whilst the production’s sweet throwing, slop scene and general slapstick sees the kids are entertained too.
It’s a disservice to Pollard to just focus on the innuendo in his writing though. He’s put an enjoyable spin on the traditional story of Sleeping Beauty. Here, the princess (played by Lucy Penrose, who communicates the pluck and playfulness of the character very well) does not sleep for a mere 100 years, but for 400 – thus waking up in the swinging sixties. The show is granted a uniqueness and modernity that possibly sets it apart from other pantos you’ll see this year.
As well as an original script, this John Terry-directed show features original music and lyrics by Harry Sever. Certain songs are likely to stick in your head after one listen, which is not an easy thing to achieve as a songwriter. On top of this, Sever taps into a variety of styles, helping to make it so this year’s Chippy offering caters to a range of musical tastes.
There is not a single weak link in the cast, but special mention should go to Connor Bannister as the prince. His transformation from Prince Byron to Prince Jagger is achieved by more than a costume change – his demeanour and accent alter excellently to create two distinctly different characters. Eamonn Fleming, also, is a wonderful pantomime dame; he might be considered the hilarious glue that holds the show together – an emcee as well as Nanny Fanny.
This Sleeping Beauty is possessing of clever technical elements – there’s a trapdoor, hidden compartments, and a big television screen that gives the illusion the characters are climbing up the side of a skyscraper – but it’s also not afraid to embrace aspects that are low-tech; I’m thinking specifically of the moment Erica Guyatt (a real presence in the role of villain Belladonna Bindweed) annihilates King Lenny’s castle by running about the stage in a yellow JCB costume – the simplicity and ridiculousness makes for a highly amusing spectacle.
There are points when some performers could have turned up the volume, but apart from that I can’t criticise. It truly is a very entertaining show, which also boasts the boldest and best panto costumes I have ever seen (credit to designer Emily Stuart). There really is something for everyone; in fact, with such inventiveness, genuinely good comic acting, and no overkill on ‘he’s behind you’ and ‘oh no it isn’t’, I reckon this could even be the panto for panto-haters.
Images © Josh Tomalin
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