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Review – The Sleeping Beauty

December 20, 2013 | By | Reply More

✭✭✭✩✩    Beautifully traditional

Church Hill Theatre
Thurs 19 – Sun 29 December 2013

Cheerful, traditional and heart-warming, Edinburgh People’s Theatre’s production of The Sleeping Beauty is a pantomime with the broadest possible appeal.

EPT's principals stand up for inspection. Photo © Graham Bell

EPT’s principals stand up for inspection. Photo © Graham Bell

There is a good balance of music and comedy, while the script, which was originally written by former EPT member David Swan, scores over many pantos by actually telling the story in some detail rather than assuming it is already known to the audience.

Director Irene Beaver marshals a large cast with skill and pace. If, at times, there is a little lack of polish, this will surely come as the run continues.

Lyzzie Dell, Mags Swan and Anne Mackenzie manage to portray the contrasting characters of the three good fairies Bounty, Wispa and Smartie seemingly effortlessly, while Ian Hunter and Lynn Cameron are pleasing presences as Beauty’s parents King Rumbletum and Queen Gigglebelly.

Mairi Beaver is an ideal choice as Beauty, considering she had a cameo in the same role as a baby in 1985. It is nobly fitting, therefore, that she copes so well with the character’s transition from spoilt, sulky teenager to fairytale princess. And – praise be – Victoria Trimm is an authentically thigh-slapping Principal Boy as Prince Handsome.

Mandy Black is a gleeful, ghoulish baddie as evil witch Olga Pong, showing as much delight in antagonising the audience as she does in watching over the impressively versatile young performers from her dance school. Gordon Braidwood is suitably horrible as her ugly son Gormless. Nicola Tait is a cheerfully inscrutable, dancing (but not speaking) cuddly panda.

The cheesiest jokes are told with gusto and relish

It is in the comic department that this production really shines. Even the cheesiest jokes are told with gusto and relish, while the inclusion of one routine – the ‘busy bee’ – which is supposedly nearly as old as panto itself, is a sign of how reassuringly traditional it all is.

Iain Fraser is an impressive Dame as Nurse Pinchme, raucous and rude while also excelling when dealing with young audience members. Kyle Sutherland shows real skill as Oddjob, the ‘Buttons’ figure, interacting well with the audience and striking a good balance between cheeky and sympathetic. Graham Bell provides some big laughs as the short-sighted Squint.

There is the odd topical reference thrown in, but perhaps the script might have benefited from more of a brushing up, as some of the attitudes displayed seemed a little dated. The show might also profit from losing a few minutes from its running time – while the second half fairly rattles along, the first act is slightly too long. There also seems to be little reason for the cast effectively being put to sleep by poisoned ice-cream long before the inevitable 100-year nap. Some of the musical numbers lack a little pizzazz and some of the singing is underpowered.

However, the good points far outweigh the bad. There is as much audience participation as you could possibly want, and the real traditional magic of pantomime is here in abundance. This, added to the essential good nature of the whole enterprise and the almost total absence of innuendo, would make this an ideal ‘starter’ pantomime for nervous audiences. The youngest members of the audience were certainly entering into the spirit of it whole-heartedly, but this would be a treat for anybody.

Running time 2 hours 30 minutes including interval
Run ends Sunday 29 December 2013
Evenings 7.00 pm on 19, 20, 21, 23 and 27, Matinee 2.30 pm on 21, 22, 28 and 29
No shows on 24, 25 or 26
Church Hill Theatre, 33a Morningside Road, EH10 4DR
Details from www.ept.org.uk
Tickets at: www.ept.org.uk/boxoffice/

ENDS

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