"...absolutely guaranteed to delight the whole family".
Christmas city lights are on, trees are up, panto season is truly upon us - and Coventry’s magnificent Belgrade Theatre has certainly switched on the shimmer this year with writer/director Iain Lauchlan’s very entertaining family panto Sleeping Beauty.
Iain Lauchlan has been in charge of Belgrade’s panto for many years, and its easy to see why. He is well known for his writing and production talents - Tweenies, Boo!, Jim Jam and Sunny, Playschool, Fun Song Factory etc. etc., to name just a few. The man is super talented and knows exactly how to put on a show of quality and the Belgrade audiences are in for a treat this year.
This is the tale of Princess Belle (not Aurora!) who is cursed at her Christening party by the wicked Fairy Carabosse (who, incidentally, had been previously banished from the Kingdom and now has the hump for not being on this guest list). She casts a wicked spell to ensure Belle will prick her finger on a spinning wheel on her 18th birthday and die but Carabosse’s sister, Fairy Azuriel offers some hope to the King and Queen, and helps to change the spell so that the Princess, and all those in the palace, will just fall into an enchanted snooze for 100 years… with a warning that the spell can only be broken by a true love’s kiss.
Nanny Fanny McWheeze (Iain Lauchlan), the Princess’s new nanny, arrives at the Palace of King Hugo (Declan Wilson) and Queen Hyacinth (Vicky Field), to learn that Carabosse (Laura Judge) has cast the spell. As a solution, King Hugo orders the destruction of all spinning wheels in the Kingdom and the palace-folk return to their normal day-to-day. A little magical panto time-hop and we move on to Belle’s (Melissa Brown-Taylor) 18th birthday party. Carabosse and her sidekick, Grunge, (Vicky Field) hide a spinning wheel in the palace and enchant Belle to a remote room where she pricks her finger on the needle. A delighted Carabosse retreats to her lair, Nanny McWheeze, Prince Valiant (Joanna Thorne) and Muddles the Jester (Craig Hollingsworth) find Belle, and everyone else at the Palace, in a deep sleep and the adventure begins as the friends travel through time, battle past dragons and cut through thorny forests to find Belle and break the spell.
This traditional production really does contain every pantomime treat you could dream of with a breath-taking set and sumptuous wardrobe by Terry Parsons, animatronics and clever gauze projections. It is fast-paced with thrill after thrill and delight after delight, lots of brilliantly choreographed slapstick, subtle adult jokes that the kids won’t notice and songs to make you feel festive, even in November.
Anna Mitcham as Good Fairy Azurial captures everyone’s hearts with her graceful, yet cheeky beauty offering plenty of reassurance for the younger viewers. Laura Judge as Carabosse plays a magnificent baddy, with a powerful singing voice and stunning Maleficent-styled costume. I applaud Vicky Field’s Grunge character and her exceptional dancing, and routines with fellow dancers Ivano Turco and Katy Anna-Southgate were really exciting. Melissa Brown-Taylor plays a charming Princess and sings beautifully with Joanna Thorne as the Prince and Declan Wilson is full of love, life and song as the King. A bubbly ensemble includes some very confident and charming young performers.
Hollingsworth and Lauchlan’s comedy double-act is a joy to witness - the hilarious cake decorating messy scene, chats with ‘Morag’ and the ‘If I was not in pantomime’ routine are laugh-out-loud, memorable show highlights not to be missed.
Lauchlan has written an outstanding and hilarious pantomime, full of love and fun, which is absolutely guaranteed to delight the whole family.
Runs to 5 Jan
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