reviewed at the Theatre Royal, Norwich on 15 December
The Norwich Theatre Royal’s pantomime policy of creating a show where the story is subtly new-detailed and the settings, costumes and music are all of one piece has once more proved its worth. This year’s Sleeping Beauty is no court-dwelling pampered princess; rather she’s the apparent daughter of the Midges. They are trusted retainers of Lord Northbridge’s family.
We are in 1917 (no, there isn’t a world war raging outside this slightly PG Wodehouse territory). Richard Gauntlett’s script makes Derek Griffiths’ butler Chortwood the prime mover of the action and has more than a faint aura of Doctor Who; both he and Stephen Godward’s Northbridge are concerned to keep Patience safe from the machinations of Dowager Aunt Vipera.
Vipera lives up to her name. Gillian Wright makes it clear that she’s after more than country-house – or even palace – domination. On the eve of her 18th birthday Elizabeth Carter’s Patience has the Northbridge heir Timothy (Glenn Adamson) wooing her and treats Muddles Midges (Ben Langley) as a kid brother cum best friend. She’s unaware that she will be queen, always provided she reaches that birthday unscathed.
The performances are all very good and Dee Jago hs provided some snappy choreography, including that for the 2017 scenes in the second act. David Carter has arraned the score and is the musical director with the six-man band. Kirsteen Wythe’s costumes fit the updated action as well as the characters who wear them.
Traditional gags take their proper place, enlivened by some new variations – I particularly liked the water-garden sequence. The u/v light skeleton crew and Vipera’s castle-enclosing thicket work particularly well. Overall it’s a show for both children and adults. The latter can revel in the new visual details while the youngsters have their imaginations set to work by characters which are both familiar and yet novel.
Five star rating.
Sleeping Beauty runs at the Norwich Theatre Royal until 14 January. Performance dates and times vary; check the theatre’s website: www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk for details and seat availability.