THE essential requirement of pantomime is that it entertains and enchants, and the Christmas show at Bath’s Theatre Royal always does that, aided and abetted by the sheer magic of the venue, as the lights twinkle around the beautiful auditorium and the excitement mounts, all ready for the arrival of the heroes and heroines, goodies and baddies and the comics.
This year’s show, Sleeping Beauty, has been written by the perennial favourite knockabout and local boy Jon Monie. He has confronted the problem of the story (that everything happens in the “first half” leaving nothing for after the interval) by creating a new layer of villainy from the evil Carabosse. If you remember, she’s the one who wasn’t invited to Princess Rose’s christening, and was so miffed she cursed the baby with death if she pricked her finger – and that was before the days of social media and misery memoirs.
The production is big and loud and colourful, with lots of songs and flying, and some innovative technical stuff that transforms the stage from the traditional village and forest backdrops into a galactic wonderland. Would it be a spoiler if I told you that even Superman and a Tardis make their appearances on cue? In recent years a wonderfully colourful thing called a Long Range Super Soaker has become de rigeur in pantomime, and it makes its appearance early in Sleeping Beauty.
Maisie Selwood is a spirited Princess Rose, anxious to get away from her over-protective father the King (David Pendlebury). But her birthday celebrations are, of course, threatened by the conniving Carabosse (Emma Norman) who is running against the clock to bring her dastardly curse to fruition. Luckily a handsome prince, in the person of East Enders’ Neil McDermott (last seen at Bath in Home, I’m Darling in February), comes to the rescue, and then has to be time-travelled to catch up with his true love a century later! Sarah Jane Buckley is a delightful good fairy.
Anchoring the show, as always in the Bath pantomime, are Nick Wilton as the loveable Dame Nanny Nora, and Jon Monie, this time as Lester the Jester.
The children in the audience loved the excitement and adventure of this re-telling of the Perrault tale, which is a spectacular celebration of the original. Hopefully the show will get a few more topical references as it progresses, and please, Jon, a panto is not a panto without It’s Behind You, no matter how many new routines you introduce.
Sleeping Beauty continues until 7th January, with various daytime and evening performances.
Photographs by Freia Turland