St. Helens Theatre Royal
Date: October 22 2017
Location: St. Helens Theatre Royal
Pantomimes have increased in number over the last few years. From the usual Christmas tradition, we have been treated to Easter offerings, and now we have another pantomime just in time for Halloween.
Mind you, though there are some ghostly scenes, Sleeping Beauty is all about entertainment and fairy tale-esque magic, bringing smiles to children's faces while eliciting huge laughs from the adults. The great pantos do this seamlessly, and Sleeping Beauty at St. Helens Theatre Royal does a fine job of pulling this off to the point where, by the end, you're left with a positive impression on the characters and the show as a whole.
It did take a bit of time to get going, with the crowd being unusually quiet during the early scenes, but it soon kicked into high gear with the brilliant Tam Ryan, who played Chester The Jester. Many of his lines resulted in big laughs, and his scenes (such as a daft moment where he and the Dame, played by Simon Foster, were preparing edible treats for Princess Aurora's birthday celebration) were the highlights of the show. He was also great at ad-libbing and thinking on his feet during unexpected moments, the funniest being when the Dame's skirt accidentally fell off (fortunately, she/he was covered up to avoid blinding the audience!).
Laura Gregory played her role as the Princess well; Corey Rumble as the Prince was not involved as much as people may have expected, though. Claire Sweeney as Carabosse and Warren Donnelly as the King made up a strong cast (and you can read an interview from those two about this show by clicking here). Elsewhere, the settings were stunning, with great attention to detail (such as chandelier lights using a crown-shaped frame within the palace), and the use of ghosts and similarly scary creatures within the "spooky" tower gave this show more of a Halloween-esque feel than you would normally expect. There was also a varied soundtrack throughout the show, as well as performances of some recognisable numbers such as Kool & The Gang's Celebration.
Perhaps the funniest aspect of the show came towards the end, when a number of children were invited for some audience participation with prizes at stake. There's an old saying in show business about the unpredictability of working with children, and that thought popped up watching this part of the performance as the kids stole the show with hilariously high-pitched laughs, amusing answers and a feeling of independence when running around on stage. Chester played up to this brilliantly in his one way, making this the most memorable scene of the whole evening. The adults found this to be uproarious, as they did during other scenes where the "risqué" element of pantomime was taken as far as I've ever seen.
On the downside, there were a couple of issues with the special effects, as the pyrotechnics often left an unnecessarily strong smoky scent in the air, and the lighting was muddled in the closing scene of the first half. I also expected the show as a whole to last a little longer, and the story wasn't quite as strong as it could have been, mostly revolving around the showdown between Carabosse and the Prince, which seemed a little rushed. But the kids were delighted with the show as a whole, which is always the most important thing.
So, if you're looking for somewhere to take the kids this half-term, or even if you're an adult who is looking for a fun day out, then Sleeping Beauty is a terrific option to deliver a lot of laughs for all of the family.
Overall Rating: 8/10 - Very Good