Fri, 20 Dec 2019
Review by Robin Strapp
Sleeping Beauty, at the Corn Exchange, until January 4
THERE’S a new production team at the helm of this year’s Corn Exchange pantomime Sleeping Beauty and they have created an absolute cracker of a show, full of festive fun for all the family.
The foyer was beautifully-decorated with a huge Christmas tree with chandeliers in the entrance to the auditorium and festoons of drapes with lights glowing inside, creating a magical atmosphere for this spectacular show. The excited youngsters and their parents were in for a real treat. The panto is wittily written and inventively directed by Plested & Brown, who are no strangers to panto-land, having appeared in many of the Corn Exchange’s previous Christmas productions. This high- energy production performed by a talented cast is full of wonderful surprises. You simply must go to see them – you won’t be disappointed. The sparkling sets, impressive costumes and lighting are stunning.
Lara Denning is splendid as Fairy Frappuccino who visits Newbury Bottom to bring gifts for the arrival of the new royal princess. Her sister, the deliciously evil Fairy Kruger “no one’s ruder” (Katharine Bennett-Fox) casts a curse on the new baby and quickly had the audience booing her and she relished their jeers.
King Arthur-itus (yes it was one of many groan making puns), played by Nick Read, devises a plan to protect Princess Aurora, a delightful performance by Jay Alexandra Bennett, as long as she avoids pricking her finger on a spinning wheel needle.
Every panto needs a dame and Philip Elvy as Nanny Fanny Adams, wearing the most outlandish costumes, was outstanding and had an excellent rapport with the audience.
Matthew Grace returned for his eighth appearance as Billy Bumpkin, but this year wanted to be known by his own name, which created much hilarity – everyone loved him.
There was strong support from Charlie Bassett Cross and Thérèse O’Sullivan as the courtier and ensemble and the company of enthusiastic local youngsters were spot-on. Ben Barrow is the reluctant Prince who breaks the spell and wakes up Aurora. There was oodles of audience participation, a slosh scene with a very unexpected twist, loads of local references, slick choreography by Holly Hughes and the most exhausting hilarious delivery of the song “if I were not in pantomime this is what I’d be”.
Perfect ingredients to start celebrating the Christmas season, oh yes it was!
Book your tickets soon.