Review: Sleeping Beauty, Mercury Theatre, Colchester, until January 11.
- Credit: Archant
This is the famous folk story brought right up to date. In fact, it takes it well into future because this princess doesn’t get the magic kiss that will open her eyes until the middle of this century – and it’s a very different world from the castle where the bad fairy cast the original spell of death.
Here, King Sid and Queen Betty have been abolished in favour of a republic - although they stand a chance of being restored if the story comes out right. People wear tight-fitting sparkly clothes – the police dogs can talk and work complicated technology, and there’s a robot with a major flatulence problem.
The whole thing is great fun and it is clear that writer Jonathan Petherbridge has set out to make the audience think just a little more than usual. There’s even a bit of helpful biology for the very young. When the queen is confined and on the verge of giving birth, the audience is required to assist her with her breathing and pushing. But all in the best possible taste!
And, there’s no simple kiss solution to the problem of waking up Princess Talia (Stephanie Hockley). Prince Ronnie (Jonny Fines) is also required to solve a tricky riddle. So, with his robot out of action, he has to call on the audience to help him out.
It’s a panto that bubbles with good humour and local jokes and the laughter-raising task falls mainly on the shoulders of dame Nanny, played by Neil Bromley, and Emma Salvo’s Fairy Crystal, who needs to do a really good deed before she can qualify for her proper flying wings.
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The pair of them keep the momentum going with their join-in songs and a beautifully-rehearsed bit of slapstick with clubs. Kate Copeland clearly plays the Old Lady, or bad fairy, the way the role was written, although one felt it might have been made a bit more boo-worthy.
But that’s a small carp about a show that, supported by a cracking band lifted up on both sides of the stage, is full of good things – not least several mischievous rabbits - some very smart dancing and a nice choice of songs. Sarah Head’s queen, Simon Pontin’s king, Craig Painting’s first secretary and Melissa Dean’s Marjorie, like the rest of cast, are all in very good voice.
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