Sunday, 15 December 2019

REVIEW: Sleeping Beuaty at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford

Some of the best pantomimes are created where the creative team return and seek to build and improve on prior years rather than simply replicate their previous successes in a formulaic way and Guildford’s returning team have once again achieved that.

Jamie Smith (6th Yvonne Arnaud Pantomime) has given this version of Sleeping Beauty a very modern Eco warrior feel with the Prince a video blogger campaigning for less plastic and a greener world and his Princess Aurora a physicist inventing a time travel machine, a modern medieval maiden. It gives the show a fresh feel, although it never really reconciles its setting in thirteenth century with the smart phone live streaming! 

Choreographer Katie Beard (two previous Yvonne Arnaud pantomimes) gets the show of to a great start with "Flash Bang Wallop" with new words to introduce all the characters in the story, the ensemble and juvenile team. Throughout the show there are lively well drilled routines including an excellent fun Dance off and an evil "Poison” under the musical supervision of Anthony England (4th year) and MD Bryan Hodgson (three previous pantomimes).

There are colourful bright costume designs with a twist form Jamie Attlee (4 previous pantomimes) included a very modern looking opening outfits for the Prince and Princess and glorious jackets and hats for the King as well as plenty of traditional looking pantomime costumes for the Villainess and Comic. All these elements are brought together by the new Yvonne Arnaud Artistic Director Joanna Reid who directs and creates an excellent first half with pace and energy although the second half does seem to slow down. There are some overlong gaps between scenes especially in the Spacetime continuum scene (nice idea but far too slow) and a rather mechanical laboured Board games trolley sketch and twelve days of Christmas routine which have been done better elsewhere. 

However it is the cast who rise to the challenge of entertaining us even more than last year with Brummie Jamie Brook returning for a ninth year as Muddles , Peter Gordon (14th Year) as Nanny Fanny and Kit Hesketh-Harvey (eight years) and bringing their own unique style to each character. Brook is excellent as the comic with a lot of magic up his sleeve and his own call out “Alright my Babbies”! He gives us the old Bottle and cup magic trick to make the money for the party go further, and makes the Princess magically appear in a cage and although we know how they are done they are charmingly introduced to the show. He wholeheartedly engages in the traditional baking scene with the Dame with plenty of slapstick and old jokes.

Kit Hesketh-Harvey is slightly underused as Carabosse and we could have seen more of his sardonic audience interaction. He is at his best wondering in the audience and reacting to who he sees but does finally leave the stage in an excellent illusion with the Throne which although obvious how it is done still looks impressive! When the audience are encouraged to chant “we love Carabosse” to defeat him, you can’t help thinking they do like him!

The Prince is played by Andy Smith (a current Guildford Acting student) and he creates this modern-day confident campaigning Prince with a good voice and pleasant persona and worked well with the excellent understudy Princess played by Olivia Lallo. She excelled throughout looking and sounding made for the part and clearly enjoying her moment in the limelight while still back filling in the ensemble for the Act 2 scene in Carabosse’s castle. She makes a lively fresh and strong Princess.

Yolande Ovide gives us a rapping Fairy Stardust who seems to be part of the family joining in the dance routines alongside the King (Michael Sheldon) who DJ’s the Dance off!

This is a fresh entertaining show with a good green message for the kids and plenty to amuse the adults.

Review by Nick Wayne 

Rating: ★★★★

Seat: Stalls, Row L | Price of Ticket: £24
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