The Corn Exchange and Hiss and Boo
Corn Exchange, Newbury
Review by Robin Strapp
It's that time of year again when panto takes to the stage in Newbury and once again, in Sleeping Beauty, the Corn Exchange and Hiss and Boo have created a cracker of a show.
Many of the cast return from last year's Puss in Boots and they obviously have an empathy with each other that allowed them to thoroughly enjoy their performances.
Written and directed by Phil Willmott and starring the excellent comedy duo Claire Plested as Princess Chardonnay and Adam Brown as King Jeremy, whose rapport with audience was delightful with wonderful comedy timing, they really made the show.
This was a jaunty, high spirited and fun filled panto with something for everyone from toddler to granny.
Princess Chardonnay is looking for a frog to turn into a Prince. The King and Queen are planning a royal christening if only the bumbling Billy Bumpkin (Mathew Grace) can deliver the invitations to the right people.
The Royal parents are not coping well and they desperately need someone to look after the baby. So Nanny McBubbles is summoned thanks to the 'wishogram' machine and comes to the rescue.
Ian Mowat was outstanding as the 'dame' McBubbles - a total delight to watch, wearing the most outrageous costumes including a gingham dress that contained a whole picnic. Wonderful stuff.
Billy Bumpkin fails to deliver the invitation to the evil Fairy Acid Drop, a deliciously nasty performance by Katherine Hare, who feels she has been insulted.
She plots her revenge together with her spiteful sprite Spindle (Joe Wicks) and casts a spell on Princess Rose (Joanna Woodward). She falls in love with the magazine star Prince Sebastian (Reeda Harris) and a wedding is planned.
But Princess Rose is lured to the north tower and pricks her finger on a spindle. Fairy Cup Cake (Lindsay Scigliano) manages to change the curse and so they all fall asleep for a hundred years. But all works out well in the end.
There is oodles of audience participation, a fabulous Glee first act finale, a hilarious ballet scene, an uproarious rendition of the twelve days of Christmas, energetic choreography and a vibrant musical score that unfortunately on the press night overwhelmed some the singing.
The colourful set is striking with a revolve that ensures continuity which was especially effective in showing Rose growing up from a child to adult. Splendidly lit by Guy Dickens with sparkling special effects, this was a panto that had all the right ingredients to start celebrating the Christmas season - "Oh yes it was! " - and the enthusiastic audience loved it.