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Sleeping Beauty

“A sharp-witted pantomime”

There are several references to familiar children’s characters in Joyce Branagh’s production of Sleeping Beauty. Hayley Russell’s Belladonna Bile channels Maleficent with her cut-glass accent and distinctive headdress while Nanny Fanny (Robin Simpson) seems to float down from above like a Technicolor Mary Poppins.

But as the production progresses, it’s clear that Andrew Pollard’s script was written with adults in mind. Risqué jokes abound, Yorkshire stereotypes are ridiculed and there’s even a well-directed Dirty Dancing spoof – “Nobody puts Nanny in the corner.”

Although Simpson, Esther Grace-Button (as Fairy Falalala) and Nicola Jayne Ingram (as Hester the Jester) are all engaging performers, their early scenes of audience interaction mean the story takes a while to get going. The pacing recovers when Alyce Liburd’s Princess Aurora arrives – a glorious party medley for her 18th birthday is a highlight of the show.

Liburd carries the audience along with her wide-eyed charm while Russell invokes fear as the sultry villainess. As a result, there’s a real sense of jeopardy when Aurora pricks her finger. As she falls asleep for a hundred years, a clever effect from lighting designer Chris Brearley gives the appearance of green vines spreading across Mark Walters’ glitter-suffused set.

The creative surprises continue into the faster, slicker second half with the advent of an awe-inspiring dragon. Russell is also given more scope to shine in powerfully performed solos.

It’s a shame that this Yorkshire version of Sleeping Beauty takes a while to find its stride: with a little more narrative oomph, it would be brilliant.

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Production Details
Production nameSleeping Beauty
VenueLawrence Batley Theatre
StartsDecember 6, 2019
EndsJanuary 5, 2020
Running time2hrs 20mins
AuthorAndrew Pollard
DirectorJoyce Branagh
Musical directorRebekah Hughes
ChoreographerRachel Gee
Set designerMark Walters
Costume designerMark Walters, Sarah Bell
Lighting designerChris Brearley
Sound designerJonathan Hudson
CastRobin Simpson, Alyce Liburd, Esther-Grace Button, Nicola Jayne Ingram, Richard Hand, Thomas Cotran, Hayley Russell
Production managerJames Clare
Stage managerEmma Cook, Brett Speakman, Craige Clarke
Head of wardrobeBecky Smith
ProducerLawrence Batley Theatre
VerdictSharp-witted, if initially slow-moving, pantomime featuring a likeable cast and impressive special effects
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Natalie Douglas

Natalie Douglas

Natalie Douglas

Natalie Douglas

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