Adapted by Alan P Frayn
Directed by Michael Haworth & Claire Ashworth
Bacup Royal Court Theatre Group
Bacup RCT really pulled out all the stops with this lavish presentation of the classic ‘Sleeping Beauty’ story. The presentation was on a par with most professional pantomimes, with a multitude of costumes and superb settings making the best possible use of the Royal Court Theatre facilities.
In the spirit of community theatre, all of its cast were participating members of the company, giving everyone on stage their moment in the spotlight.
I was delighted to see the young members of the company taking part as performers rather than just window dressing – the young members were delightful, and a credit to all those mentoring them. Their stage presence was excellent and we were treated to enthusiastic, in character performances.
Naturally any pantomime has a large cast and Sleeping Beauty was no exception. With 38 performers all contributing to telling the story, the stage at the Royal Court was a kaleidoscope of colour and movement. The dancers from the Dansworks Dance Academy added that extra touch to the overall proceedings.
On a personal level, I’m not sure that the script was one of Alan Freyn’s better offerings as it was very long, and concentrated a great deal on setting the scene for the 100-year sleep that was to befall the title character. However, the children in the audience were delighted with the story coming to life before their eyes and certainly joined in with the booing and hissing and cheering of the various characters.
The pantomime was well cast, with not two fairies (good and bad) but a total of seven, plus four junior members, who were accorded the status of Learner Fairy, with a large “L” placard indicating this.
The Good principal fairy was Fairy Lilac, played by Claire Ashworth, in fine voice and firmly in command of her iSpells, changing the spell cast by Bad Witch Hazel, played by Dawn-Marie Woodcock, from death to a hundred year sleep Claire gave her usual assured performance, firmly in control of the proceedings.
Fairy Lilac was aided very well by Fairy Red (Rebecca Ashworth), Fairy Silver (Gill Pearson), Fairy Blue (Katharine Pemberton), Fairy Green (Racheal O’Hara) and Fairy Orange (Bailey O’Hara).
Dawn-Marie Woodcock was the superb baddie who had the children in the audience hissing and booing each time she appeared. The children needed no prompting – Fairy Bad Witch Hazel was immediately booed on her appearance. Dawn certainly knew how to work the audience and this she did with gusto and not a little dramatic malice. An excellent performance.
Central to the first part of the story were the King and Queen played by Harry Haworth and Karen McNulty respectively. Everything revolved around them and their new daughter, Princess Rose. It was an excellent pairing because they created a very believable couple. As a growing child, Princess Rose was played by Georgia Smith. This was another very believable characterisation, and one could sympathise with the fact that she was cosseted and protected as she was growing up to ensure that the curse by the Bad Witch Hazel could not happen. The frustration of the early teenage years was also very much in evidence because of the characterisation. Well done.
Fetch (Emmeline Greenwood) and Carrie (Lauren Downes) had been tasked, firstly, with delivering the invitations to Prince Rose’s baptism and then all to ensure that no pointed objects were available upon which Princess Rose might be pricked in order to fulfil the Bad Witch Hazel’s curse. Emmeline and Lauren worked extremely well together and were in the true spirit of pantomime comedy duos. There were crazy knockabout routines, always involved in the action and always like a breath of fresh air, each time they appeared. They were an excellent partnership and one which was very well played.
The young Prince Alexis was played by Louis Price. What a beautifully mellifluous speaking voice had this young man. I am not sure whether or not he is a singer but if not, I am sure he would benefit from training, as his voice is deep, rich and resonant with a wonderful natural musical quality about it. He is a young performer who will, no doubt, be very much in demand as he gets older.
In the second act, we were introduced to the grown-up princess and the great grandson of the original Prince (it’s a long story but fitted the 100 year sleep over). The adult Princess Rose was played by Amy Singleton, and Prince Alexander by Oliver Peck. This proved to be an excellent casting as they worked extremely well together and we had some lovely quality singing from them. “I’ve Had the Time of My Life” was sung as well as I have ever heard it. It was beautiful.
Interspersed with the story were some dance interludes by pupils and members of the Dansworks Dance Academy. The juniors gave a superb display of co-ordinated semi-street dancing and each of the performers was throughly enjoying being on stage. The more senior members gave a beautiful ballet sequence, en pointe, and very well performed. It had a dreamlike quality which highlighted the deep slumber of the Princess.
Any pantomime has to have a dame. This is a difficult one for a story like ‘Sleeping Beauty’ but a dame was introduced and on this occasion was Nurse Hettie Harpic played, in traditional pantomime style, by Stephen Woods. The script in this version didn’t give the dame sufficient scope for a great deal of interaction with the storyline, but the short sequence with the audience was very well done indeed. This was helped by a terrific stooge in Andy, from Skelmersdale.
As all pantomimes, need a dame, so they also need a general factotum. The character fulfilling this role was Muddles, played by Adam Parker. He was here, there and everywhere creating a superb rapport with the audience. I was very impressed by his piano accompaniment to Princess Rose’s song. This scene would have done credit to a Morecambe and Wise sketch. It was slick and very funny. Well done.
‘Sleeping Beauty’ was another terrific offering by Bacup RCT company, and one of which they should be extremely proud. It was colourful, tuneful, lavishly costumed by The Boyz and Claire Ashworth, and with the right amount of glitter and sparkle that all pantomimes should have. The make-up was superb, and the lighting, sound and projection were all at professional standard.
And I know that the ABBA megamix ending will have sent the audience home very happy indeed.
Very many congratulations to everyone involved in giving the Bacup audience a truly lavish, spectacular pantomime.
Thank you for your very warm hospitality.