Panto! Sleeping Beauty
Yvonne Arnaud's Sleeping Beauty is a glitter-filled, magical celebration of traditional panto - and it promises to wow even the harshest of critics!
There’s nothing like putting a pantomime to the test when your first-timer son is sitting in the seat next to you. To say expectations were high is an understatement and whilst it might be easy enough to win over an adult with daft songs and silly slapstick, a four-year-old newbie with a complete lack of filter is the harshest critic of all. Brace yourselves, Guildford.
Directed by Joanna Read and written by Jamie Smith, Sleeping Beauty at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Guildford told the ol’ familiar 9th century tale, except for a few ironic, contemporary twists. From sneaky mentions of Amazon Prime, Twitter and Love Island, to talk of hashtags, selfies and YouTube, this show had all the timely mockery you’d ever want from a good old fashioned panto, even if most of the quips went over the heads of anyone in the audience younger than the age of 12. But that’s why grown-ups love panto too right?
The cast didn’t disappoint. Eagle Radio’s Peter Gordon delivered all the goods as the panto dame, which is unsurprising considering this is his 14th consecutive festive performance at the Yvonne Arnaud. Another pantomime pro, Kit Hesketh-Harvey, was satisfyingly diva-ish as evil witch Carabose and despite a slightly nervous start, The X Factor’s Holly Tandy hit all the right notes as gung-ho Princess Aurora. But special mention goes to ‘everyone’s favourite Brummie’ Jamie Brook who triumphed as Muddles and managed to expertly warm up what was, at the start, a rather lukewarm audience. But rest assured, we were sizzling hot by the end.
The music had everything from Olly Murs to Alice Cooper but my favourite musical moment came unexpectedly from one of the ballads, ‘Shallow’, thanks to the excellent singing of Holly and her ‘Prince Florizel’ (Andy Smith). It was a shame the song was cut short but all was forgiven when it was reprised later in the show. I also noticed some particularly lovely singing coming from some of the male members of the ensemble, which might defeat the idea of a collective ensemble but when the singing’s that good, it deserves recognition.
The production had it all – impressive magic tricks, wonderful audience participation, sparkly set designs, slick dance moves and, despite deserving a much more impressive looking wand, an all-singing, all-rapping fairy. And just as things were getting a tad too serious for my liking, along came ‘The 12 Days of Christmas’, arguably the show’s highlight, which included multiple custard pies, the usual hilarious chaos and, of course, the dreaded water pistols. Because if someone’s face isn’t covered in custard pie and the audience doesn’t get wet, can you even call it a pantomime?
It’s fair to say there was something for all the family – my cheeks ached from all the smiling and despite feeling utterly exhausted from his first ever panto marathon, my son still asked excitedly if we could go back next year. “This was the best night in the whole wide world,” he told us. Well done Guildford, you’ve just been awarded the highest of accolades.
Sleeping Beauty is at Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Guildford from now until Sun 5 Jan 2020. yvonne-arnaud.co.uk
Review by Philippa Pearne