Theatres don’t come much lovelier than the Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds – the UK’s only surviving Regency playhouse, and one of only a handful of Grade I listed theatres in the country. And pantomimes don’t come much lovelier than writer Chris Hannon and director Karen Simpson’s Sleeping Beauty.
It’s a fairly modest affair, with an adult cast of just eight and clearly staged without the resources larger theatres can command. But it’s wonderfully warm and genial throughout, littered with local jokes, and boasts several seriously funny set-pieces. The performers seem to be genuinely having a good time – their corpsing is spontaneous, and all the more enjoyable for it.
Key to all of that is the returning Chris Clarkson, who is great as Dame Nanny Fanny, and Oliver Mawdsley, equally good as Clarkson’s little Scouse sidekick Grub. Together, the two of them power the show with classic panto routines – a sequence in which they rehash the Twelve Days of Christmas, flinging toilet rolls into the audience and liberally soaking them with water pistols is probably the best panto moment I’ve seen this year (and I’ve seen a lot).
Alongside them, Neil Stewart makes for an amiable King Edmund, Joseph Connor a pleasingly preening Prince Florin, and Jasmine Hackett a likeable leading lady, who, refreshingly, has quite a lot to do in Hannon’s script. The whole thing is extremely cockle-warming, as are all the best pantos.