Chipping Norton Theatre’s Sleeping Beauty takes its audience time-travelling from 1567 to 1967. John Terry’s engaging production slickly incorporates all the beloved elements of panto, as well as catchy songs and meticulous design.
The choice of period settings is never really explained beyond the production’s flower theme (Tudor rose and flower power). But they provide a rich canvas for lavish costume designs, including an awe-inspiring Elizabeth I costume for the pantomime dame Nanny Fanny (Eamonn Fleming).
Erica Guyatt stands out from a solid cast as the deliciously evil Belladonna Bindweed. Her tango-inspired song ‘Ballad of Belladonna’, with accompanying marionette-like choreography, is a highlight of the first half. Harry Sever’s music, which quotes from a variety of genres and vaguely familiar songs, is a key ingredient of the comedy. Lucy Penrose gives a vocally strong performance as the romantic but rebellious Princess Rose. In the second half, writer Andrew Pollard reverses the traditional gender dynamics of the fairytale and Rose sets out to rescue her boyfriend.
A couple of scenes that depend on visual gags go on too long and fall flat; the pacing of the first half is, on the whole, a little slow. However, it picks up in the second half when Pollard carries on where the Sleeping Beauty writer left off. The theatrical high point of the production is a hilarious and inventive use of live video to depict a perilous rescue mission. Such staging innovations provide a welcome lift to the telling of this familiar story.