Gordon Craig Theatre, Stevenage
1pm, 2 January 2016
Slick, sparkly and hilarious. This Sleeping Beauty is absolutely cracking from start to finish. There’s a clever script that is genuinely funny without merely trotting out standard panto jokes and lost of “Oh no you’re not” etc etc audience interaction. Plus, the traditional tale is jazzed up with time travel, a fairy who plays the trumpet, a skillful – without being smutty – stripping dame and some giant inflatable sausages. Yes really.
This is all combined with some spectacular effects and your standard panto favourites that, in the hands of these performers, still seem fresh – a well choreographed messy scene, numerous and ever more fabulous costume changes for the dame and the ubiquitous “ghost in the woods” routine with the “handy bench” they just happened to find!
Plus, all the performances are spot on and all credit to them that on 2 January, they still looked like they were having a blast!
What can you say about Paul Laidlaw that hasn’t been said before? He’s just the best dame in the business as far as I’m concerned. He looks fabulous, is a skillful comic and always adds just a touch of glamour to your standard, hapless dame. His timing is spot on, especially in his cheeky asides to the audience.
Wendi Peters is a superb Carabosse. Normally the villain doesn’t have quite so much to do – but she had scene after scene and song after song – obviously taking advantage of her fabulous singing voice. For all those that know her best for Cilla in Corrie, she is a revelation as she effortlessly belts out hits including “I’ve Put a Spell on You”, The Time Warp and best of all a brilliant Uptown Funk.
She is glorious in her wickedness, perfectly lapses into Cilla every so often – and to top it all – does a mean tap dance.
As Chester the Jester, Aiden O’Neill has funny bones. I have honestly never seen V laugh so much – she was practically rolling about during the sausage scene. He was endearing, had great timing and had the audience in the palm of his hand.
There was more comedy from Nicola Bryan as the narcoleptic Fairy Fortywinks who kept dropping off and kept the ingenious story moving effortlessly along.
Daniella Piper and Gregor Stewart as Princess Belle and Prince Valiant were everything the romantic leads should be, charming, sweet and good singers, while Paul Bentley as King Clarence bellowed out yet another great voice.
This is a beauty of a “panto” and as it’s on until 24 January – there’s still time to see it. We had a great afternoon – even if a certain five-year-old banned me from dancing at the end. Goodness knows why?!
The sausage bit was great – especially when the jester was just kicking it. And when he thought the dame was Peppa Pig – that was really funny!
Running time: About 2 hours 30 minutes including a 20 minute interval.
Age range: It’s panto. It’s for everybody.
Other stuff: Programme £3. Other sparkly flashy stuff from £2.50 to about £6.