Pantomime review: Sleeping Beauty at Chipping Norton Theatre
PUBLISHED: 13:04 04 December 2017
The Chipping Norton Theatre know how to put on a good pantomime and this year's thigh-slapping, fun-filled production of Sleeping Beauty is no exception
Christmas has arrived in Chippy: the much-loved, annual panto run has kicked off in this charming market town. Taking no heed from national news stating that a worried mother wants the “inappropriate” story of Sleeping Beauty off the curriculum, the classic tale gets the no holds barred pantomime treatment.
The story begins in the 1500s when King Lenny (Paul Tonkin) is planning the christening of his daughter, Princess Rose. We’re introduced to Fairy Flax (Bea Holland), a good fairy with a penchant for fashion and flowers, and palace dogsbody Willy Wallflower (Christian James), who are on hand to help the King plan a party fit for a princess.
Hilarity ensues with the arrival of Nanny Fanny (Eamonn Fleming): the panto dame with a repertoire of innuendo-laden gags, topical jokes and colourful costume changes (created by costume maker Rebecca Clark) to keep the audience laughing and cheering along. I was initially worried the show may miss former dame Andrew Pepper but Eamonn Fleming did a fantastic job of playing the flamboyant part.
For me, pantomime villain Belladonna Bindweed stole the show. Sashaying on and off the stage in array of beautiful costumes, she commanded the audience’s attention with a cheeky wink and evil cackle. I liked her so much I almost found myself cheering instead of booing and hissing when she came on stage.
She managed to persuade Princess Rose (Lucy Penrose) to prick her finger on a spinning wheel which meant the kingdom fell asleep for 400 years. Bringing the show forward to the swinging 60s, Princess Rose was awoken by her true love: rock’n’roll star Jagger Prince (Connor Bannister, a young actor with the perfect rockstar stance and manner).
The friendship between dithering King Lenny, reliable Willy Wallflower and larger-than-life Nanny Fanny was wonderful to see throughout the show. They seem to find themselves in a manner of mishaps, from a temperamental pie-making machine to a blow-up-bed incident involving a battered sausage.
Also there needs to be a special mention for the junior actors, ‘The Theatre Pippins’. Their professionalism and enthusiasm meant they were a delight to watch.
For those who are yet to visit The Theatre, Chipping Norton, the intimate venue allows for the audience - whether sat in the stalls or right at the back - to truly get involved in the performance. The stage setting and props were also eye-catching and there’s a particularly innovative scene in which they’ve made excellent use of the cosy stage.
There’s dancing, sing-along numbers and plenty of sweets to catch when Nanny Fanny is feeling particularly kind. It’s also the kind of place you want to mingle with your fellow audience members in the interval and chat to the cast and crew involved.
A huge congratulations to The Theatre, Chipping Norton. Once again, they’ve perfected the formula for a magical Christmas pantomime and we can guarantee you’ll leave the theatre with a smile on your face.
Sleeping Beauty will run up until Sunday January 14 at The Theatre, Chipping Norton. Relaxed performances will take place on Friday December 15 and Wednesday January 10. Don’t miss your chance to go behind the scenes on a stage tour.
Tickets can be booked online or call the Box Office on 01608 642350.