By: Sara Lamerton, TRP Reviewer
Having seen the panto every year since Cinderella in 2015, I’ve settled into this campy, innuendo laden Christmas traditional quite nicely. Being whisked away to a Janner version of a well-known fairytale land has become something I look forward to, but don’t expect too much of. Of course, over the years I’ve seen productions that have tickled my fancy more than others. As well as a few lacklustre ones leaving me unsure if I’ll go again the following year. Although, in that time, I’ve never seen a production of Sleeping Beauty; the well-known tale of an ill-fated princess who, cursed by an evil, vengeful queen, pricks her finger on the evening of her 21st birthday, only to be plunged into a deep slumber where she awaits truelove’s kiss.
Sleeping Beauty stars the two-time Bafta winner Shane Richie as Muddles; 2016’s X-Factor winner, Matt Terry as the Court Balladeer who saves Princess Aurora, Stephanie Mckenzie, from the wicked curse placed upon her by Queen Carabosse, Britt Lenting; alongside a host of other talented performers including Ceri Dupree as Queen Fabulosa, Peter Piper as King Crackerjack, Jarneia Richard-Noel as the Good Fairy and Eleanor Walsh as Princess Narcissa.
Shane Richie, best known for playing Alfie Moon in EastEnders, is a much-loved figure, both onscreen and in pantos across the land. With a cheeky cockney charm perfectly suited to the role, he’s a very welcome attraction appealing to a wide audience. And, despite the usual Janner laden jokes about specific areas of Plymouth we’ve come to expect, at the end of the show Richie spoke fondly about Plymouth and the time the cast and his family will spend in the city.
Another crowd pleaser, especially for the younger audience members and those fond of popular reality TV shows, is Matt Terry. Playing the loveable, down-to-earth heartthrob, Terry is a pleasure to watch. A complete natural on stage, his uplifting solo performances are some of the show’s best, along with the very talented Britt Lenting’s whose contrasting fiery, darkly absorbing scenes are pitch-perfect for the grandiosity of her evil queen.
There are certainly all the expected panto tropes at play: inappropriate jokes, ridiculous tongue twisters, Christmas related scenes outside of the main storyline, fabulous pantomime dames, slapstick comedy, and a happy ending. However, Sleeping Beauty really does have an extra special magical ingredient. At certain poignant points, the production is unexpectedly high quality, and, without giving anything away for those of you going over the Christmas and New Year period, there are two specific scenes – one at the end of the first half and one early in the second – that showcase the quality and thought put into this show.
With two performances a day running through until 14th January, it really is a wonder how they all continue with such enthusiasm and energy day-in, day-out. The official opening night (albeit a week into the show’s run) was packed. It’s wonderful to see people enjoying the theatre again with abandon and in such numbers after the ups and downs of the past two years. So, if you’re looking for an extra special Christmas treat this year, I would definitely recommend this festive escapism.