Sleeping Beauty is on at the Richmond Theatre until Sunday 8 January 2017: http://www.atgtickets.com/venues/richmond-theatre/
Star rating: ****
My first pantomime of the season and what a start it was! I have not had the pleasure of watching a pantomime version of Sleeping Beauty, before, but this was a delight from beginning to end. Directed by Chris Jarvis, who also starred in the show, this magnificent piece of family entertainment had a set de force, a fantastic range of both modern and classic musical numbers and tight choreography from Katherine Iles. Plus glorious costumes for which kudos must go to the wardrobe department.
The main star attraction was Maureen Lipman, she played Carabosse, the put-out Fairy who is not invited to Princess Beauty’s Christening and reacts accordingly! I have never seen Lipman in a pantomime before and I was keen to see her transition from the variety of other work for which she is well known. She was, without doubt, one of the best baddies I have seen. Lipman’s quick-witted humour lent itself superbly to pantomime and she was both terrifying and hilarious in equal measure, as well as fabulously turned out. Gags from her popular impersonation of Joyce Grenfell and the old BT advert lines were cleverly interspersed and there appeared to be a good deal of recognition from the audience. Everyone should see Lipman play the baddie, she is extraordinarily good at being bad.
Chris Jarvis, who must be commended for directing the production, was a lively and likeable Chester the Jester, definitely a thumb’s up from me for his antics and excellent chemistry with Lauren Hood who was a very sweet Beauty. It was difficult to take Dan Partidge seriously as the Prince, but I felt that was because he picked up on and worked with the tongue-in-cheek style which befits Britain’s finest tradition. Partidge had a fine singing voice and ballads were certainly his forte. Matt Rixon was resplendent as the Dame, Nursie. There were plenty of gags about his being a man dressed as a woman and his height seemed to enhance his performance and make it all the funnier. Graham James made me chuckle as the doddery old King who needed a hearing aid as opposed to a baby daughter, really! Tania Newton was quite the shining star as the Queen and wouldn’t have been out of place in Eastenders, only it would have to be a much lighter hearted version of the hit soap opera, as her comic timing was spot on. If anything, Newton is underused and more could have been made of her part.
A few special effects were used, but otherwise it was a basic pantomime which relied on humour, story telling and well chosen songs to carry it through. There was an abundance of audience participation and interaction, it felt like a very traditional affair and I recommend this as the perfect family pantomime to kick-start the festivities.
Photo credits: Craig Sugden