‘Ey up, me duck!’: Nottingham Playhouse’s Sleeping Beauty is panto perfection
Sit, write a list of every box you think a great Christmas pantomime should tick. Done it? Now, buy your ticket to Sleeping Beauty at the Playhouse and I’ll bet your list will leave be fully ticked.
Kenneth Alan Taylor’s writing and direction have made a panto to please all, even major panto-sceptics like myself. It’s camp, it’s funny, and it’s full of festive family-friendly fun.
The performance followed the usual Sleeping Beauty story, the one most of us have grown to know and love, but the company added the perfect amount of panto tweaks.
The show’s role-gender-swapping works to fantastic traditional panto effect. The darling Prince Alexander is performed by a woman (the thigh-spanking Louise Dalton), Princess Rosalind’s (Maddie Harper) nanny is the show stealing pantomime dame, Nurse Tilly Trott (John Elkington).
The panto was complete with musical numbers, performances of smash pop hits; Bruno Mars’ I Think I Wanna Marry You fit so well, and the kids in the audience lapped up King Hubert’s (played by Darren Southworth) rendition of Old Town Road.
Yes, the singing wasn’t completely West End standard, but it didn’t matter one bit. The songs were light-hearted, funny and aided the story-telling in keeping all age groups interested.
The children watching, particularly the Brownies as I remember, loved the whole thing. The Playhouse was a constant eruptions of either screams and cheers of joy or screams and jeers of dislike at the excellently performed villain Maleficent (Toyin Aydeun-Alase).
Maleficent definitely scared the young ones at points. When she walked on, the audience booed and hissed without prompt. Nonetheless, she was panto gold. Her performance of Don’t Stop Me Now was the best song of the night.
The jokes managed to be socially relevant for all ages (note the mentions of ‘beloved’ Nottingham City Transport), whilst leaving Brexit and the election to one side. Phew.
Nurse Tilly Trott carried the comedy of the piece, leaving the audience cackling at her northern quips and warm humour. The classic rabbit pie scene left little ones reeling, whilst filling older viewers with panto nostalgia aplenty.
The set was grand; featuring a series of decoratively painted back drops that alternated throughout. The set even brought a humour of its own.
Perhaps the funniest point throughout for me, was when a backdrop got stuck on the rig down, leaving it hanging askew in mid-air. Prince Alexander and Fairy Wisheart (a dazzling Lisa Ambalavanar) were the two on stage at this point, but they never stuttered. They stood and laughed on, improvising around the mishap in traditional panto fashion. When the backdrop was finally lowered correctly, the audience cheered: the crowd feeling at one with the community of actors.
Even if you don’t think panto is for you (trust me, it isn’t for me either), head along and give this a watch. I promise you’ll leave smiling and feeling festive; Sleeping Beauty does just what it says on the tin.
Sleeping Beauty Review
Everyone knows what happens in a pantomime, and everyone knows the story of Sleeping Beauty, but what would happen when you combine the two together? It was from this years Christmas pantomime audience got to enjoy this combination at the Playhouse.
This was the Playhouses 37th annual pantomime presented by writer and director Kenneth Alan Taylor, meaning there was high expectations for such a regular at the Playhouse. Ever since I was little, I have been watching pantomimes and as the same as a lot of people, I knew what was going to appear in one but as we are in the 21st century and in 2019, I questioned could their perhaps be anything different in this pantomime that would make me surprised?
We started with the christening of baby Rosalind (this name made me surprised as someone who is a huge fan of Disney, I was expecting the baby to be called Aurora), and the introduction of all characters in the play including King Hubert, Queen Gertrude, Nurse Tilly and Fairy Wisheart. All was full of joy until, in came the evil Maleficent.
From the onset, this cast of actors does very well to get the crowd interacting with the performance with our first character, Jerry the Jester – played by Tim Frater. A way this is done well to get the crowd off their feet is by getting them to sing along, and who would not want to sing at Christmas? It starts with Black Eyed Pea’s ‘I got a feeling’, and after hearing this first song, I certainly got a feeling this show was going to be a laugh and joy to watch.
As expected in every pantomime, we must have a dame to glamourise a show, and so we did…. John Elkington played Nurse Tilly Trott and left the audience, including me in tears of laughter. Nurse Tilly and Jerry the Jester were an especially good duo as the both helped to guide the audience through the story as well as keeping them entertained and engaged. Another positive that came from our Dame was how he reached out to the local audience by including slang only people from Nottingham could understand, and as someone not from Nottingham, I certainly learned some new sayings that were quite catchy such as: “me duck”.
One actor in this production that stood out to me the most was Lisa Ambalavanar who played Fairy Wisheart. Even though pantomimes are meant to be more comedic rather than emotional, I believe in a new twist of a pantomime which I enjoyed very much was a more deep and meaningful performance by one of the characters to add more depth to the production. This was clearly done by Lisa Ambalavanar in her singing performance of “you are not alone”. She sang this song so beautifully it made me feel like she was talking to everyone in the audience, and it even made me think this is what Christmas is all about, about being with the people you love and care about around you showing you are not alone.
The only parts that I thought were lacking in this amazing production was perhaps some of the song choices as you could clearly tell from the audience there was a large majority of children, however some of the songs were not known by this young audience. I can say myself that some I didn’t know myself. However, the song choices of this pantomime are also a major positive as it was these songs that got the crown singing and dancing, which is what you would expect from a pantomime.
To sum it up, this years Nottingham Playhouse pantomime production of ‘Sleeping Beauty’ was a joy to watch after not watching a pantomime for such a long time. It was executed excellently, with all actors in production playing their parts amazingly and was clearly enjoyed by everyone in attendance.
Sleeping Beauty review
25th of November a whole month before Christmas and I’m now in the mood to put my decorations….
Sleeping Beauty was astonishing. From the moment you entered the room the huge glittering backdrop that was filled from top to bottom with sparkles and glimmer, held your attention and you were immediately transported into the fairy-tale land of the production.
You were greeted with a hilarious Jester (Tim Frater) in a bright multi-coloured costume who engaged so well with the audience and made everyone feel included and everyone felt it so easy to participate by being immensely likable.
The range of music was wide and varied from pop songs such as Taylor swifts to well-known musical numbers so the entire audience no matter what age you were could bop along.
My favourite costume was Fairy Wisheart’s (played by Lisa Ambalavanar) as it was so sparkly from the Tiara from the wand to the end of her dress and it looked so magical and shimmered so brightly in the stage lighting.
Our villain Maleficent (played by Toyin Ayedun-Alase) looked magnificently evil in her dark black devil horns and dark black robe. I was finding in so hard not to laugh at how funny she was for example when we were booing and she told the audience to “shut up” in her bold patwa accent, it was hard to see her as evil when she was so hilarious. Nevertheless when she was evil she was EVIL and reared up the audience for the loudest boos!
The cast featured ages of all different ranges. The youngest on the stage were in the chorus and not one of them stopped smiling for a second and looked like they were having so much fun up on stage while performing complex choreography ranging from jazz to tap to contemporary dance it was spectacular to watch and not one of them stepped out of line!
As time flew by to the second act it was almost stolen away by the five bubbly children who were brought on at the end to voice their opinions on the show.
Cross Gender acting of Miss Tilly (John Elkington)who had the most costume changes it the show (six in counting) was my favourite actor on stage because of how she participated with the audience and the humour she projected which always had a somewhat rude undertone enabled belly laughs from all members of the audience.
Overall Sleeping Beauty was a wonderful pantomime to watch and throughout every cast member you could see the amount of effort and energy they were giving to performing to the best of their ability. It is something that I will remember for a long time and the level of professionalism was astounding!