Nottingham Playhouse Theatre Company Presents SLEEPING BEAUTY, In A Version By Kenneth Alan Taylor,
At Nottingham Playhouse & Playing Until Saturday, 11th January, 2020.
Traditionally, familiarity is said to lead to contempt. Not so in the world of pantomime, where it is, rather, content to which familiarity leads. Something of which Kenneth Alan Taylor is fully aware. Well, he should be, shouldn’t he; this is his 37th Nottingham Playhouse panto. Of these, I have now seen the last 8, so I feel well positioned to give the matter consideration.
A well-known story; several actors who are well-known to the Playhouse audience; a well-known mixture of narrative, song and dance, stand-up routines, visual spectacle, community singing, and a talk-to-the-kiddies interlude. This is the way he does it. And he does it very well. It provides us with the comfort of a well-worn pair of shoes; it offers the recognisable contours of one’s homeland, upon returning from far-flung places. Cynics, and those anti-pathetic towards panto. may well mutter, “formulaic”; to them, one may well respond, “Bah, humbug!” In lives that are frequently shaped by flux, there is something soothing about a dose of the familiar.
Most familiar of all is a quartet within the principals. Tim Frater (this year as Jerry, the Jester) cheekily capers about the stage, dispensing good cheer to all; Darren Southworth (King Hubert) and Rebecca Little (Queen Gertrude) render royal betrothal ludicrously like a comic-strip-cartoon; and John Elkington (Nurse Tilly Trott) struts his stuff in a magnificent range of costumes, (one change of which is a miracle of speed and sparkle) as he guides the production, impeccably, towards its happy ending.
Joining these four in the principal roles are Lisa Ambalavanar, as Fairy Wiseheart: as wholesome and fragrant a presence as Fairydom can conjure; Toyin Ayedun-Alase, plays the appropriately named Maleficent, like a statuesque Amazonian Warrior Queen; Maddie Harper’s Princess Rosalind is an intoxicating mixture of honey-sweet innocence and foot-stamping petulance; leaving a welcome return to a pantomime stock-character recently rather out of fashion: Louise Dalton takes-on the part of Prince Alexander in Principal Boy mode - all knee-length boots, thigh-slapping, and possessed of indomitable courage.
Strike-up the Band; Chorus (encouragingly youthful) on-stage; fly-in the scenery; hit the glitter-enhancing lights: pantomime relies upon so much more than principals. It’s a multi-faceted operation. An operation some of us have seen in action time and again. However, a significant factor in creating the magic of panto. emerges not from the stage but from the auditorium. It’s the sound of unrestrained delight from those for whom this is a new experience, not a tried and tested tradition. And a very satisfying sound it is. Experience it, this Christmas period, at Nottingham Playhouse.
Review by Rob. Worrall