To say it’s been a turbulent couple of years for anyone in the entertainment industry would be somewhat of an understatement. A bit like saying that the Wicked Fairy is a little grumpy.
Theatre production company Panto Ever After was ready to take to the stage with Sleeping Beauty last December, before…well. let’s just say that Princess Aurora hit the snooze button for 12 months, shall we? Personally, I’ve been looking forward to it for nine months – as March 20th was when company director and panto-performer Scott Worsfold first got in touch to tell us all about it!
The show will be on from Tuesday 28th December at Marsden Mechanics with the final performance on Sunday 2nd January, but in order to bring you a review in good time for you to grab your tickets before then, I’ve ventured to the other side of Ainley Top to see a matinee at the Viaduct Theatre, Halifax.
The six-strong cast of Sleeping Beauty present their panto in a manner that you may find unusual; traverse. This means that there are two sides of the audience facing one another, and the action happens in a ‘corridor’ between them. As with all staging styles, it has pros and cons, but when the pros include an incredibly immersive experience and sense of camaraderie for the audience it’s clear why it’s a great choice for pantomime.
Leading the list of characters acting out this particular iteration of Sleeping Beauty is, of course, Sleeping Beauty herself, Princess Aurora, portrayed by Larissa Teale. Her valiant companion is Trevor (Thomas Wordsworth), a young man in love with Aurora who knows there are barriers in their way.
You may well have spotted Nanny Fanny (Scott Worsfold) out in Huddersfield on a Saturday night – not in general, I mean one particular Saturday night when the *ahem* fair maiden helped switch on the Christmas lights in St George’s Square.
You’d know if you’d seen her, as her wardrobe really is something to behold! Clocking up an impressive EIGHT costume changes during the show, Nanny Fanny dresses to impress for every occasion, her outfits somewhat of a visual representation of her ‘colourful’ character. In fact, the whole cast’s outfits are a delight to behold, each bringing out aspects of the characters. Muddles the Jester (Barrie English) looks straight out of a Punch and Judy show with his bright striped outfit and comical headwear. King Roger, the proud father of Princess Aurora and portrayed by James Nicholas is resplendent in an outfit fit for a king – but one who doesn’t like to put his hand in his pocket if he can help it. Trevor, a commoner, has more modest attire – that is until he decides he must attend Aurora’s birthday party in disguise…
The set is colourful without taking attention from the action, with pieces moving around as required. Convincing the audience that Aurora is moving through corridors and upstairs is no easy task, but clever use of props makes the magic happen. And it is up those stairs in the highest tower that Aurora comes across [dramatic pause] Carabosse, the Wicked Fairy Godmother!
Played by Fiona Egan, the villain’s presence practically oozes menace and malcontent; the very mention of her name accompanied by a crash of drums and flash of light that is sure to strike fear into the hearts of many. No outlandish outfits or colourful costumes for this one, Carabosse cuts a striking figure in the finest of fiendish fashion.
Of course, the story is a well-known one, but this adaptation written by the multi-talented James Nicholas and Scott Worsfold peppers the audience with pop-culture references, satirical political jibes (wine and cheese anyone?) and a plethora of bawdy banter at the expense of characters and audience in equal measure.
The icing on the Christmas cake has to be the original songs set to well-known and well-loved tunes, and the dancing to go with them. Not only are we treated to a cast overflowing with vocal talent and groovy moves, but also an ensemble of young dancers from Miss Stacey’s School of Dance and Theatre, Halifax. These skilled and dedicated children give their all to every number in the piece, and look to be having a jolly good time too! When the show transfers to Marsden it will be the Bernadette Heys School of Theatre Dance working alongside the Sleeping Beauty team.
We live in uncertain times, and at the moment people in the entertainment industry and beyond are wondering what next month, next week or even tomorrow will bring. In many ways, it feels like we’ve not long since got back into the swing of things with concerts, festivals and theatre, and now it’s all in jeopardy again. When half of the West End has gone dark, it really and truly feels important to gravitate towards and nurture the beams of light we have around us by supporting local theatres and productions when we can. As the song goes, “You don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone”. Me? I’d rather not find out if that’s true.
Panto Ever After – founded by Sleeping Beauty stars Scott and Fiona – are passionate about what they do. They work hard to bring their vibrant productions to amazing venues while keeping theatre accessible, offering the lowest price professional panto tickets around.
The show continues at the Viaduct Theatre in Halifax up to and including Christmas Eve. As much as I feel obliged to say hold out until it comes to Huddersfield, I do think it’s worth getting a showing in over the road before Christmas, just in case (tickets for Halifax here). Then depending on how things go, well why not pop to Marsden after Christmas and see it again (tickets here)?
Take your friends, neighbours, friends’ neighbours and neighbours’ friends. And watch out for my favourite part, about which I will say only three words.
ABBA. Megamix. Extravaganza.