Barry Bridges reviews Sleeping Beauty

Sleeping Beauty
by Chris Shinn and Julie Petrucci
performed by Waterbeach Community Players
directed by Julie Petrucci

Let me start this review by saying I was envious. I was envious that it wasn't me up on the stage getting all the applause at the end of this superb pantomime from the WCP.

Waterbeach is tucked away off the A10 heading North from Cambridge and if anyone was wondering where all the talent in our amateur industry was disappearing to I'd have to say it's here.

I had no expectations when I arrived at this production. That's a lie. I expected, from a community group, something that I would consider amateurish and come away satisfied that I'd seen what I would expect from a performance in a school hall on school chairs! What I got was something that I would go and see again, that should be on more than it's three day run and something that made me laugh, sing and recommend to anyone who will listen.

Sleeping Beauty is the age old tale of the princess cursed at birth by the evil witch and then pricks her finger on a needle on her eighteenth birthday and falls into a deep sleep to be finally awakened by a kiss from the handsome prince.

Written by Julie Petrucci (who also directed) and Chris Shinn (who also played the Dame), this was Sleeping Beauty with a modern slant. From one of the fairies (Wendy Croft) wishing expertise in IT, to Prince Valiant (Vicky Butt) and Princess Aurora (Chloe Hynes) communicating via their mobile phones, this was a pantomime that blended modern and fairy tale and had us laughing from the start.

Okay some things weren't done so well. The princess had a solo at the beginning that was clearly being sung by someone in the wings and the chief fairy tended to block some of the other fairies every time they came on stage. But that was about it.

It was a show full of unique double acts. There was King Basil (Iain Renfrew doing an excellent Prince Charles) and Queen Beryl (Caroline Blair -double for a young Diana Rigg), there was the evil Zelda Blackadder (Steph Hamer who I hope is much nicer in real life) and her work experience apprentice Spaldrick (Jane Stewart, a veritable comic actress) and there was Dame Dotty Dooright and the Court Jester (Stephen Smith).

They say there is nothing like a dame but Chris Shinn should be lauded for being exactly like one. In a sublime sub plot Dame Dotty gets mistaken for the MIS agent sent to protect the princess from sharp objects whilst the agent himself is mistaken for a Court Jester - probably because he's disguised as one. The pair had us in fits of laughter and Dotty probably had Dave from Milton Road running for his car as soon as the show finished.

Waterbeach had two fabulous pieces in their production that other societies should take note of. The first was the Dame and the Jester miming to Pretenders "Brass In Pocket" which was hilarious and the second was an excellent use of UV lighting to show the fairy hands making the magic sword that would free Prince Valiant from the enchanted forest.

Mention should also be made of Michael Husband as Feathers, the palace's comic pigeon trainer whose messenger pigeon "Lightning" would fly off and on stage from unknown directions with notes for the King and Queen. This was a great show that had the audience hooked, provided two hours of excellent entertainment and had us walking away wishing we lived there and could be involved next year.

I will forgive them for the small school seats, I'll forgive the fact that there was only one gents toilet, but I won't forgive the fact that I'm either going to have to drive 50 miles to see next year's show or move home to be in it!!!

Barry Bridges

This review first appeared in Volume 12 No.2 of Curtain Call - the amateur theatre magazine for East Anglia

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