Sleeping Beauty at Weston-super-Mare Playhouse

LONG before Strictly Come Dancing became one of BBC television’s top attractions, former world ballroom dance champion Victor Silvester and his strict tempo Ballroom Orchestra occupied a similar position on BBC Radio. One of the regular contributions to a programme which attracted millions of listeners each week was a dance lesson during which Victor called out the musical beat. His cry of “slow, slow, quick, quick, slow”, became famous, oft copied by impressionists of the day.

Take out the final slow, you could not accuse this production of ending on a slow, downbeat note, and you have a description of the way in which this pantomime evolved. In the early scenes with Michael Goble, an ebullient Jingles, and Richard Alan’s traditional dame, straining every muscle to make contact with an audience still a little cold from the freezing weather outside the theatre, the pace was a little pedestrian. But you can’t keep a pair of seasoned professionals like these down for long, and, aided in fine style by Gareth Davies’ King Rene, Vicki Michelle (mixing shades of her sex kitten Yvette from Allo’ Allo!, with her arch villain Carabosse) and dominating her hapless and helpless helper Herman, Dereck Moran, with obvious relish, the  production quickly warmed up and increased in pace.

The introduction of a Dr Who Tardis telephone box , so that the cast could be taken back …  or was it forward, to the 1960s and 80s, in order show off their singing and dancing skills and sometimes their abilities to humorously impersonate vocalists from those periods in action, was a real winner. All of these numbers improved by the energetic support of the hard working six strong ensemble and MD Alex Williams and his band. This is a production where everyone involved, on and off stage, pulls their weight.

It may not be the biggest, most grandly or spectacularly staged pantomime on the planet, but it certainly is not shabby in any way, with bright colourful costumes and scenery,and a fire breathing dragon thrown in for good measure.

And who slays the dragon?  – Daniel Slade, continually skilfully sending up his romantic image as Prince Harry, Collette Stewart beautifully full of bonhomie as Fairy Madge, one of the comedy characters, or perhaps a reformed Carabosse or Herman ?

The answer is none of them, it is the heroine Emily Day’s Princess Aurora, who takes the sword from her prevaricating lover Prince Harry’s hand and, with spirit to match her charm, (what a good Principal Boy of the old school she would make), slays the dragon, defeats Carabosse and brings proceedings to a happy-ever-after conclusion.

This well organised company will bring a great deal of happiness and Christmas cheer to all those who make their way to the Playhouse Weston-super-Mare between now and Saturday 31st December.


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