Smaller-scale producers, please note: pantomime doesn’t have to be about recycling corny gags, old scenery, well-worn costumes and vaguely remembered television names.
This year’s skilfully staged Coliseum in-house production is an object lesson in keeping the corn well-seasoned while incorporating enough new storytelling twists, theatrical fairy dust and parochial references to make a tried and tested tale seem surprisingly fresh and gutsy.
Initially slightly confusing, with cast members doubling roles and the Nutty family’s daft, identical triplets to get your head around, the backstory behind princess Briar Rose’s century of sleep takes ages to unravel.
But the narrative eventually moves into a child-friendly stride, although a lame slapstick scene trips up badly and there’s a tendency for otherwise superbly choreographed full-scale production numbers to hold up the action as it nears the good-conquers-evil final stretch.
Sets, costumes and wigs are uniformly bright and bold, as are the performances, especially Demi Goodman turning the title role into a totally believable wide-eyed teen, Justine Elizabeth Bailey’s tounge-in-cheek take on panto’s principal boy cliches, and big, butch Nanny Nutty, played by Simeon Truby, who slipped into the funny frocks at the last minute when actor (and co-writer) Fine Time Fontayne had to pull out after an accident.