Wendy Craig’s majestic good fairy watches over the beautiful Sleeping Beauty in UK Production’s version of the classic fairy tale now in residence at Basingstoke’s The Anvil for the 2010 panto season.
The former star of Butterflies and ITV’s The Royal is in fine form, and voice, as the force for good in this tale of a young princess, cursed by the disagreeable ‘bad’ fairy Demonia and destined to die if she pricks her finger on a spinning wheel before her eighteenth birthday. Of course nobody dies in pantoland, so the sentence is commuted, by the good fairy’s intervention, to a sleep lasting 100 years, only to be woken by true love’s kiss from the duty handsome prince.
The problem with Sleeping Beauty is that that is about it. The story, such as it is, is easily dealt with in the first half, leaving the second half practically free for the serious business of panto – slapstick, audience participation, sing songs etc. Unfortunately, this makes the show seem overly padded, and for the mums and dads at least, gives little to hold interest for the full two and a half hours running time. However, this production is aimed squarely at the little-ones, and judging by the audience reaction, hits the spot quite nicely.
The undoubted stars of this piece are Nick Wilton’s dame, Nurse Nelly, and Silly Billy, played by Andrew Agnew (known to kiddies up and down the land as PC Plum from CBeebies Balamory). The pair work tirelessly to wring every bit of comedy from an otherwise rather unimaginative script, and lift the somewhat stodgy direction with a nice bit of business with a mirror and by launching themselves into the audience, bringing some much needed energy to proceedings.
Shaun Dalton is an impossibly tall 'handsome prince' to Sarah Louise Day’s diminutive sleepy princess, but are well matched vocally with strong singing voices. Michael Chance does a good comic turn as King, and Abi Titmuss, in her panto debut, makes an eye catching bad fairy, although lacking the over-the-top nastiness the part demands. Perhaps she is just too beautiful to be mean?
Ably supported by a three man orchestra, full chorus line and youngsters from the Basingstoke Academy of Dancing and the Kelly Hopkins Theatre Club, this is traditional fair in every sense of the word. Adults may need to be a little indulgent, but the little-ones will be delighted.