Sleeping Beauty review

Sleeping Beauty – MacRobert’s Christmas Pantomime!

I usually begin with a snappy line, roughly summarising the show in question. Today, however, I’d like to start by announcing that I, David Feeney, unashamedly, unreservedly and unconditionally admit that I love pantomime. I don’t know what it is. Perhaps it’s the unique experience of panto that transcends the illusion of age, allowing you to feel completely like a child, with absolutely no embarrassment or guilt whatsoever. Every person in the room who has ever seen a pantomime knows the plot. They know the format, they know the lines, they even know most of the gags. In most cases, especially where Gerard Kelly is concerned, they know the exchanges: “Hiya Buttons!/Hiya pals!”, “It’s behind you!” and of course the classic, “Oh no I didn’t!/Oh yes you did!”. There is absolutely nothing about a pantomime which cannot be predicted or expected, yet this does not seem to stunt the enjoyment factor in the slightest. Perhaps it is this – the familiarity of the pantomime – which has allowed it to keep its cheesy, slapstick charm, with very little format change since its advent as an interval piece in operas in the 18th Century.

Despite all this, I have to confess that this year, I was disappointed. I really cannot discern whether the pantomime was less enjoyable than usual, or whether, as frightening as it may be, I am losing my inner child. I hope against hope that the pantomime was really bad, because the latter would be a startling and unhappy discovery. I’ve always prided myself on my ability to tap into my inner child where appropriate, so to find out that I had lost touch would crush me. Certainly I can find no reason critically to fault the pantomime. It had all the usual features, including the drag dame (wonderfully played by the show’s scriptwriter), the terrifying villain (a terrific performance by Anita Vitesse, an actress who never fails to impress), the simple minded, smitten ‘Buttons’ character (in this case ‘Jester’, played by Ross Allan to near perfection) and the naive, butter-wouldn’t-melt, sickeningly pristine princess (comfortably pulled off by the stunning Charlene Boyd). The almost unbearable gags were there, as was the barely palatable innuendos which we are so accustomed to. On this note, praise must go to McKnight for the excellent script – I’ve seen pantomimes where the innuendo has gone beyond the point where it bypasses the consciousness of those it doesn’t appeal to, which completely spoils the family-friendly environment which gives pantomime its magic. One pantomime I witnessed recently was so smut-laden, half the audience did not return after the interval.

In an interesting (and welcome) twist, we saw a return to the traditional gender swapping, namely a female Prince Charming. This led to a moment where I felt both great fear and excitement when I realised that the kiss which should wake Sleeping Beauty out of her deep sleep would in fact entail a female to female encounter. The potential to cause outrage among devout Christians was emotionally polarising. On the one hand, I thought that this could be too confusing for children brought up in middle class society (Why is the prince a lady mummy? And why is she kissing the princess?), and on the other, I saw the potential to educate children, although the latter seems unlikely, and anyway my objective excitement (and fear) were quelled by a further twist – Jester ends up getting the girl. Now I don’t quite know what the message is here. Love conquers all? Being nice gets you what you want? Whatever it is, (and my own views on the subject are probably too contentious for this review) it certainly makes for interesting viewing.

The show’s music was surprisingly good for a pantomime. Featuring several well-known tunes, slightly edited for comic effect – including a jocular reference to Lady Gaga’s annoyingly catchy ‘Poker Face’ (with the titular line changed to ‘Botox Face’) and music from the fantastic Wizard of Oz spin-off, Wicked. This in particular was capitalised on by heavily referencing the character of Elphaba through the villain character, Queenie McMeanine.

Finally, praise must go to Gavin Wright and Michele Gallagher, who each played double roles in the show, and both of whom put in excellent performances, to the orchestral arrangements of Alan Penman, and to the cast of young actors who comprised the bulk of the ensemble cast. Now to conclude, I’m still at a loss as to why I didn’t enjoy this pantomime as much as usual. Perhaps I’ve become so accustomed to Gerard Kelly and co, I just can’t bear to see anyone else play that role (Sorry, Ross, it’s not personal. It’s just not the same without GK!). Nonetheless, this is an extremely enjoyable pantomime, and one I would recommend to anyone and everyone.

David Feeney


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macrobert arts centre offers an exciting programme of events that welcomes everyone. Choose from a fantastic programme of live events including theatre, dance and music. There is also a full cinema programme with films showing to suit all ages and tastes. There are lots of fun activities for children and young people: creative factories, supervised arts and craft sessions in treehouse, tailor made birthday parties, and youth theatre and dance groups. TICKETS AND INFORMATION LINE 01786 466666 You can also follow macrobert on Facebook , Twitter and Bebo. For special offers and to get all the macrobert news first, sign up for our weekly e-bulletin via

3 Responses to Sleeping Beauty review

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