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Sleeping Beauty (Susan Elkin reviews)

Sleeping Beauty
Nottingham Playhouse Theatre Company present Kenneth Alan Taylor’s production
society/company: Nottingham Playhouse
performance date: 11 Dec 2019
venue: Nottingham Playhouse, Wellington Circus, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire NG1 5AF

Photos: Pamela Raith Photography


One of those pantos which is rooted in its own local traditions, this show is light on jokes but strong on story telling. When I was a child I used to sit there squirming at the “silliness” and wishing they’d get on with the story. The seven-year-old me would have liked Kenneth Alan Taylor’s take on Sleeping Beauty (his 37th pantomime for Nottingham Playhouse). The grown-up me found it a refreshing change too although it certainly wouldn’t be everybody’s cup of tea.

Unusually for a venue of this size, Nottingham Playhouse makes its own costumes and sets (designed by Tim Meacock for this show) in onsite workshops. And they’re delightful – so much more original and attractive than hired- in ones. Toyin Ayedun-Alase as Maleficent, for examples, wears a striking, shimmery, panelled, pewter dress with epaulettes. Can I have it when she’s finished with it? John Elkinton as the Dame looks really rather nice in a series of get-ups which are showily stylish, in good fabrics, rather than grotesque. In also liked the black, horned costumes for the ensemble supporting Maleficent too.

A word of praise for the “ghost” scene too. Instead of the usual repeated song we get a tune played by the band every time the monster comes in. It’s a sort of extended leitmotiv which keeps shifting up a semitone. And the tusked, toothed monster – a bit Gruffalo-ish – is great.

It’s a while since I’ve seen a principal boy played, in the traditional way by a woman (Louise Dalton – good) and it puzzled the special needs boy in front of me. What it does, in 2019, is to make the central falling in love feel like a rather modern same sex relationship as if tradition is effortlessly adapting itself to the 21st Century.

A four-piece band in the pit plays a wide variety of music for this show which nips along from Prokofiev to Oklahoma!, with bits of rap, lots of other songs and musical references in between. And it is noticeable that every member of this cast – some of whom have done Nottingham Playhouse panto many times before – is a good singer. Tim Frater, for instance, as Jerry the Jester, can really hit the notes as well as being a convincing actor. Darren Southwaite as King Hubert and Rebecca Little as his wife Gertrude deliver a show stopping duet in the second half.

This is a gentle, understated pantomime. There’s nothing raucous, vulgar or brash about it. Arguably it falls short of full panto values but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

 First published by Sardines:
Author information
Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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