Review: Sleeping Beauty – Theatre Royal, Norwich

It’s not often that The Rocky Horror Show anthem ‘The Time Warp’ features in a pantomime but, for Norwich Theatre Royal’s Sleeping Beauty, its inclusion is just one sign of a production packed with inventiveness.

In these tough economic times for the arts it’s heartening to see a festive show packed to the rafters with spectacle. From the moment the show starts, complete with a flying narrator and impressive illusions, the bar is set high and the staging never misses a beat.

Here the traditional tale of the the infant princess cursed by an evil Queen is given a contemporary make over while still retaining the key elements. The young princess is still cursed but add in some time travelling a la Back To The Future and you have a very modern Sleeping Beauty. There also a feel of a modern monarchy at work with echoes of William and Kate – reflected with a knowing costume nod in the finale.

Richard Gauntlett’s witty script keep all the obligatory panto elements but injects plenty of local references and topical jokes, alongside the aforementioned Rocky Horror number the score also includes a singalong Abba medley and an opportunity for young audience members to shine in the panto song of choice this year ‘I Am The Music Man’.

Scenic Projects impressive set provides plenty of magic including a Chitty Chitty Bang Bang-esque time travelling sequence with impressive laser effects. Its one of several moments of jaw-dropping theatricality that make this a contender for the most spectacular panto of the year.

Author Gauntlett proves to be multi-skilled, taking on the directorial reigns as well as giving us his Dame, Nurse Peggy Pickle. Nurse Peggy is perhaps less of a monstrous creation than some other Dames, more of a protective mother figure for her two adopted children. Though considering Peggy’s outrageous dress sense, the children are perhaps in danger of a visit from the fashion police.

Emerdale and Dancing on Ice star Haley Tamaddon charms as Hope, the adopted princess who is unaware of her true heritage. Whether singing beautifully or flying across the stage to thrwart a dragon, Tamaddon is very much the modern princess, happy to fall in love with her prince but not one to stand by and let him take all the glory. Tamaddon did provide an unexpected comic opportunity on press night by making an entrance early and giving her co-stars ammunition for plenty of in-jokes.

Kevin Sacre’s Prince Valient has more than a passing resemblance to the Duke of Cambridge and has real chemistry with Tamaddon.

There’s also strong performances from Helen Fraser as the evil plotting Queen Bracken, Tom Beard as her henchman/dog Rumbole and a genial comic masterpiece from Andre Vincent as Muddles.

Sleeping Beauty demonstrates that you can stage a traditional pantomime but still include new material to appeal to all age groups without losing that panto heritage.

This is one spectacular and inventive panto that it would be a crime to sleep through.

Review originally written for The Public Reviews

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