Sleeping Beauty - Theatre Royal Plymouth - Review
Decorations may be packed away, and trees sent off after another Christmas, but just as you may still be working your way through the leftover chocolates, the festive season isn’t quite over yet when it comes to pantomime at the Theatre Royal Plymouth, as ‘Sleeping Beauty’ continues through to January 14th.
Whilst the classic fairy tale of princess Aurora (Stephanie McKenzie) being cursed to sleep on her 21stbirthday, with the hope of true love’s kiss being able to wake her, does play out in a fun, funny and successful manner, a great deal of focus here is given to Muddles, played by star name Shane Richie of Eastenders fame. As is the way with pantomimes up and down the country, the bigger the name, the bigger the scenes, but I’m not complaining, that’s just how it works and that is what people have come to expect.
Richie stars alongside Peter Piper as King Crackerjack, Ceri Dupree as Queen Fabulousa, X factor star Matt Terry as the creatively named Matt the court balladeer,Britt Lenting as the evil Queen Carabosse, Jarnéia Richard-Noel as the good fairy and Eleanor Walsh as princess Narcissa. It is Richie’s Muddles that propels the action forward, appearing in sketch after sketch, most often alongside Piper’s King Crackerjack. The pair had the audience eating out of the palm of their hands throughout, with many a moment of side-splitting laughter.
Ceri Dupree impresses as dame Queen Fabulousa, gracing the stage in a multitude of fabulous costumes and delighting in making the audience laugh. Britt Lenting’s Queen Carabosse is the villain that everyone loves to hate, and showcases some powerhouse vocals. Jarnéia Richard-Noel’s the good fairy also has a great voice, but perhaps isn’t given the most opportunity to showcase it, only popping in every now and again to send the other characters in the correct direction for the plotline. A new addition to this version of the classic Sleeping Beauty story is the evil queen’s daughter Princess Narcissa, born the same day as Aurora and pushed away from royalty, much to her mother’s dismay and anger. Eleanor Walsh becomes a scene stealer as the stubborn, seemingly disinterested princess, always sarcastic and sassy.
Stephanie McKenzie’s princess Aurora is as sweet as can be, but for the show’s title character, she is given less attention than you would expect. Other than a few short scenes with Terry’s Matt, you don’t see much of her. Other panto’s may use big song and dance numbers of a good bulk of the show, but here these moments are instead fillers between the comedy sketches of Richie and Piper, but nonetheless Terry makes the most of them with silky vocals and impressive dancing with the high energy ensemble.
Now, I know bad jokes and pantomime go hand in hand, that’s all a part of it, as is innuendo, but some of the jokes here perhaps pushed it a little too far. Funny yes, appropriate for family entertainment, maybe not. Plus, perhaps I can put it down to the fact that I’m older now, but some parts of panto as showcased here are perhaps starting a lose their spark. It could be that, or it could simply be the whole idea of something being overused. Over the pantos I have seen in recent years, be in on a local scale or larger stages such as the London Palladium, jokes seem to be repeating themselves. A tongue twister here, play on words with different types of sweets there, it’s starting to feel a little bit been there done that and although it may still raise a giggle, I can’t help but feel that new material is needed going forwards. That and how long do panto creators think that people will believe things going wrong isn’t planned as such I ask? Outdated, or was I simply not in the spirit of things?
Overall, Sleeping Beauty has everything you would expect of a classic pantomime. Larger than life sets, extravagant costumes, song and dance numbers and a star name having the audience in stitches. It’s thoroughly entertaining and well worth a visit, just don’t be surprised when plot points and title characters are neglected for another comedy sketch.