In recent years, the Marlowe Theatre
has built up a reputation for staging some of the country's best and
most inventive pantomimes, and The Sleeping Beauty
continues that tradition.
Written and directed by Paul Hendy
(who is also behind a handful of other pantos this year), this year's
show once again boasts a cast drawn from a cross-section of celebrity
– from singer and actress Toyah Wilcox to Pop Idol
graduate Gareth Gates, CBeebies star Katrina
Bryan and musical actress Faye Brookes. It's a decent mix of
well-known names and faces that will appeal to a wide audience.
And – unlike celebrity casts in some
other pantomimes – this crew can actually do the job. Wilcox is a
long-standing resident of Pantoville who clearly knows what she's
doing, while Gates doesn't have to do an awful lot other than sing in
tune and look like Gareth Gates, both of which he does admirably.
Having only seen her previously on Nina
and the Neurons on CBeebies and in an Irn Bru
advertisement, I was pleasantly surprised by Bryan's
sweet singing voice and strong comic timing. It would have been nice
to see more of her. However. while the celebs were good, for the
second year in a row, the standout was Ben Roddy. This time he's
playing Nurse Nellie and evidently enjoying making Gates feel as
uncomfortable as possible. He brazenly stole every scene he touched.
The band, led
Wong were rocking and the combination of songs
used is more adventurous than in other pantos. Sure, there's Gangnam
Style and a bit of One Direction, but Alice Cooper, "Seasons
of love" from Rent and even Metallica make an appearance
too. Unfortunately, it's during the songs that cracks appear.
The audio mix is all wrong, with vocals being distorted or singers
simply being drowned out by the music. It's a shame, as the rest of
the show is so polished.
impeccable attention to detail is evident during some superb comic
set pieces. The first being a scene with innumerable pop
group puns as characters pull LP
sleeves out of a barrow; the second is an incredible bathroom-based
sketch with a special set, involving Nurse Nellie, Jangles
(Lloyd Hollet) and jets of water bursting forth from a ridiculous
amount of places. It's the kind of scene where every slip and
slide looks accidental, but is actually the result of pinpoint
choreography and excellent comedic acting.
Sleeping Beauty doesn't quite have the zip of last
year's show and maybe needs another week before it truly begins to
sparkle, but it's still one of the best pantos in the country this
year and well worth the travel for any panto fans outside of Kent.