Tonight we had the absolute pleasure of venturing to Bury St Edmunds to review ‘Sleeping Beauty’ at the Theatre Royal; the show is the theatre’s annual pantomime and featured a talented group of members of the theatre’s Young Chorus. It wasn’t until the interval that it came to light that my Dad (my show partner) had never been to a pantomime before, so this one was really the make-or-break of pantos for us, but, like many stories, it had a happy ending.
As you’ll see below, we were central in the Pit (Row G!) and our view was brilliant. I had quite a tall person in front of me (I’m reasonably short so everyone is comparatively tall) but I didn’t miss a thing, so I can’t recommend these seats enough. The theatre have been bringing their all with the last few set offerings, with this one (designed by Dawn Allsopp) being reminiscent of some of the most famous sets on the West End at the minute (think: Aladdin). The scene changes were slick and the lighting design (by Jake Taylor) was probably my favourite I’ve seen since Eugenius, which is saying a lot because I’m a big fan of my lighting.
While on the aesthetics, I want to put in a special mention to the whole costume team for creating, making and maintaining so many incredible pieces. From Aurora’s beautiful dresses to Carabosse’s phenomenal costume in Act Two, the team really went above and beyond on this production.
Chris Hannon’s book was funny, clever, and filled with innuendos which will easily go over the head’s of your little ones. The plot flowed brilliantly and while there was a lot of fourth-wall-breaking, it was interspersed so well throughout that it fit with the classic pantomime style without detracting from the actual show. The plot synopsis (lovingly stolen from Theatre Royal website) is as follows:
As a newborn baby she was cursed by the evil fairy Carabosse. On the day of her 16th birthday, Aurora will prick her finger on a spinning wheel and die! Will Nanny Fanny, King Edmund and Grub the kitchen boy be able to protect the un-suspecting princess? Will Fairy Fortune find a way to defeat her sister, the wicked Carabosse? And what part does the dashing Prince Florin have to play?
Join us is in the medieval kingdom of Burytonia for magic, mayhem and more. You’ll meet princes and princesses, fairies and mythical beasts. Most importantly you’ll discover if love really can conquer all.
The soundtrack to the pantomime was really something else. The opening song was a rendition of (my favourite band!) Scouting For Girl’s ‘She’s So Lovely’ and, while I was apprehensive upon reading the programme, I was very impressed with both this one and all the songs that followed (from Ed Sheeran’s ‘Perfect’ to – my favourite of the show – ‘The Suffolk Song’). Never before have I felt an urge to get up in the middle of an auditorium and dance the Time Warp (okay, I’m lying), but the atmosphere coupled with the energy of the cast was so fantastic that it was impossible for us to not join in, much to the entertainment of those around us, I’m sure.
The cast was made up of professionals and the theatre’s Youth Chorus, who displayed so much talent and professionalism themselves that it’s hard to believe they weren’t professionals too. From the hilarious Nanny Fanny (Chris Clarkson) to King Edmund (Neil Stewart) who, according to the girl behind me, was ‘like Mr Bean’ (I’d go more with John Cleese, but I can see where she was coming from), the whole cast were funny, charming and engaged brilliantly with both the source material and the audience.
It’s absolutely crucial that shows like ‘Sleeping Beauty’ exist as they often serve as a bridge for introducing children to theatre which, in my humble opinion, is one of the most important things in the world. People of all ages were gathered at the performance, and everybody left with a smile on their face. It really was a magical night.
‘Sleeping Beauty’ is playing at Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds until 13th January 2019 with matinees and accessible performances, and you can buy your tickets here.