Like Goldilocks, I’ve tried all three types of pantomime. The lavish production starring Damian This from Eastenders and Kelly That from Emmerdale is too brash. The tiny village hall with stumbling actors and lots of in-jokes can be wearisome for an outsider. A panto like Broadstone’s, on the other hand, is just right: small enough to be intimate but big enough to reach a certain standard and to offer a good couple of hours’ entertainment for everyone. Keeping up that standard and that level of entertainment is Broadstone Pantomime Productions’ latest production, Sleeping Beauty.
Ron Kite, who also plays the harassed Lord Chamberlain with authority, has provided a home-grown script that updates the story – after all, you can’t pass up the opportunity for Brexit references when the plot involves people going to sleep for 100 years and waking to find things much the same. He has included some good gags, which in true pantomime tradition make Christmas cracker jokes look like literary masterpieces. For the third year, production is in the hands of Emma-Louise Pottinger, who has effectively marshalled a very large cast: it must have been standing room only backstage.
Because it is a large team and a combined effort, it is not really fair to single out individuals, but I’m going to anyway. Holding the whole thing together, both because she is in most of the linking scenes and because of the energy, enthusiasm and versatility of her performance, is Chelsea Robson as the ‘fairly good’ fairy with a punctuality problem. Her deadly rival, Malevolent, is rather a likeable villain and is a tour de force by Chris Sherry. I must admit that only when I looked at my programme in the interval did I realise that the part was being played by a man – how does he manage that décolletage?
I was taken by the performances of Jennifer Davidson, who as Queen Gwen has a naughty twinkle behind a haughty stare and cut-glass accent; of Grace Moore as sexpot Fairy Dahlia, seemingly modelled on Mandy Rice-Davis; and of Jenny Slater, who shows herself to be a talented comedienne as both Lofty the soldier and his grandson (100 years on, you understand). Sophie Lucienne hams it up to just the right extent in Act 2 as the handsome Prince Hal and her scenes with sidekick Captain Jack (Lesley James) are some of the most effective.
Eight-year-old Brayden Smith makes a very lively Nuts the Monkey, no doubt helped by intensive rehearsal with the director (his mum). The young Jan Mizen Dancers use their impressive talents to provide some charming brief interludes which, like the rest of the action, take place against a simple but bright and cheerful set.
It’s probably safe to assume that some of the cast are occasional performers who – quite rightly – derive great pleasure from their once-a-year flirtation with am dram, but even they should appreciate the need to project their voices. Some lines get lost, which wouldn’t happen if the culprits forgot their inhibitions, spoke more slowly and delivered at a volume that blasts even the back row of the hall. But even with lines lost, there is more than enough to make this an evening (or afternoon) of classic pantomime fun.
Future performances are on 11 January at 2.30pm and 7.30pm, 12 January at 2.30pm, 17 January at 7.30pm and 18 January at 2.30pm and 7.30pm.