Sleeping Beauty review at the Alhambra Theatre, Dunfermline – ‘winningly anarchic’
The sense of anarchic silliness at Dunfermline’s Alhambra goes hand in hand with the decidedly old-school flavour of this year’s Christmas panto. In a landscape where many of Scotland’s seasonal shows are subtly challenging expectations around what’s expected of a pantomime, regular Alhambra writers Richard Gauntlett and Bill Fletcher have gone for a very traditional take on Sleeping Beauty.
Trad, however, doesn’t mean dull. Quite the opposite, in fact, with an emphasis on comedy and dance set-pieces that largely puts the plot to one side and turns the performance into a madcap variety show.
Under the direction of Bruce Strachan – whose successful 2018 has included promenade show A War of Two Halves around Edinburgh’s Tynecastle Park stadium and You Choose, the stage adaptation of the bestselling children’s book running as part of Edinburgh’s Christmas – the line between anarchy and chaos is held well.
Billy Mack is a commanding dame as Mrs Muddles, a brusque fishwife whose localised Fife patter is well met by Alan Orr’s clowning buffoon and gagman Sully Wullie, and Jo Freer as the sharp-tongued Fairy Merriweather. Helena Mitchell and Craig McDougall play it straight as the star-crossed young lovers Meghan and Harry, and Nikki Auld’s wicked Lady Vipera is as gleefully exaggerated as the part demands.
If a sense of the old-fashioned sometimes prevails, such as in an opening medley of Madness numbers and an extended time-travel sketch featuring classic iterations of Doctor Who, the young audience still responds well to the fast pace, sassy characters and inventive if low-budget set pieces, all augmented by a strong ensemble of young and adult backing dancers.