by Julie Petrucci and Chris Shinn
performed by Waterbeach Community Players
directed by Holly Collas and Phil Law
Pantomime season lands squarely in the cold and bleak midwinter when these productions' brightness, giddiness and silly jokes are needed most. Fortunately, Waterbeach Community Players' panto Sleeping Beauty served up these offerings in the nick of time during what has been a most Arctic-like season.
This retelling of Sleeping Beauty strayed from the ages-old original by incorporating a Court Jester (Chip Colquhoun) who is actually a disguised MI5 agent with an uncanny vocal resemblance to Sean Connery, a male Fairy Bluebell (Steve Harmer) who was more of a grumpy IT help desk worker than a spell-casting forest nymph and a King of Ballysilly (Michael Williamson) with a penchant for groaner jokes, to the despair of his elegant Queen (Vicki Green).
This version of the story also finds the heroine Princess Aurora (Emily Rutherford) already a romantic item with dashing Prince Valiant (Rosie Wells) before the curse of evil Zelda Blackadder (Helen Jameson) takes hold on the princess's 18th birthday. Sadly, Valiant is trapped in the forest by Zelda, who exulted in her virulence from under a magnificent pair of black horns, and her creepy, leering assistant Spaldrick (James Windle) before Valiant can rescue the princess from falling into a deep, lengthy sleep.
Of course, there is nothing like a Dame - in WCP's case, the virtuoso Dameness of Chris Shinn - to stir the pot as Dotty Dooright, Ballysilly's new head of security, and further complicate the already zany goings-on. Balancing Shinn's eyelash-batting dame was the soothing warmth of Christine Easterfield's Storyteller, precisely the person from whom any child or adult would want to hear a story at bedtime.
This was a bright, giddy and silly production performed with zest, and the directing team of Holly Collas and Phil Law introduced some clever new mischief into an already clever script with additional jokes for the king and casting Fairy Bluebell as a grizzled man without a shred of campness, leaving Shinn to fully exploit the camp factor. Other comic relief was offered by David Morris as Feathers, handler of the Royal Carrier Pigeon Lightning, and poor, inanimate Lightning herself.
The band, led by musical director and keyboard player Sarah Phelps, was tight, and kept the proceedings bouncing along quite merrily. A sequence performed in ultra-violet light - a perennial WCP treat - rightly drew oohs and aahs from the sell-out crowd. On Saturday night, an audience that seemed a bit worn out from weekend chores when they arrived failed to respond as promptly and loudly to the goings-on onstage as they merited; this slowed the pacing a bit, primarily in the places that rely on audience participation to energise the action. Oh yes they do!
But for those of us who like to boo at the baddies, groan with a smile and a laugh at the jokes and cheer on our fairy-tale heroes and heroines, WCP's Sleeping Beauty gave us lots of opportunities to tick all of those boxes with glee.
Dee Dee Doke
Phone: 01223 880023
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Phone: 01223 880023