Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

Sleeping Beauty

Phil Lowe and David Bown
Harrogate Theatre Royal
Harrogate Theatre Royal

The cast of Sleeping Beauty Credit: Sam Atkins

Harrogate’s traditional Christmas offering reunites a familiar team, with the writers Phil Lowe and David Bown tackling this classic after last year’s charming Jack and the Beanstalk.

While some pantos offer all-round entertainment for young and old alike (take a bow, York Theatre Royal’s Aladdin and the Twankeys), some tend to appeal more to the spotter of celebrities usually found trying to escape the jungle unscathed. Harrogate’s is a third kind, showcasing an ensemble cast but steadfastly aiming at the younger—perhaps very young—audience member.

This is, of course, no bad thing, and the winning stage persona of Tim Stedman, here for the fourteenth time of asking, certainly provokes giggles and glee from this youngest portion of the audience. The dame, Chris Clarkson, is as last year restrained and plays part of the larger team rather than dominating the stage.

But there are drawbacks to this resolutely child-friendly approach. The opening feels overlong, with catchphrase upon catchphrase introduced, the rules of each made clear and rehearsed with the audience. The slightly laboured local references also add up to what is a rather slow-paced opening sequence.

Katy Dean, another of the regular Harrogate panto team, makes a knee-slapping return as principle boy Tom; she sings well and brings an appealing, friendly presence. Amy Walsh is similarly squeaky-clean as Princess Aurora, but gets the opportunity to double almost unrecognisably as old crone Mother Shipton.

The cast as a whole is strong, though King Keith, played by Steve Huison, cuts a slightly odd figure, and the Good Wizard Roy (Philip Stewart) is lumbered with a rather tired ‘stoned hippie’ persona, which while endearing at first quickly palls. Lindsay Scigliano, as the evil witch Carabosse, is another powerful presence, but her audience interaction feels somewhat rote, as she at times brushes past the boos without really acknowledging the effect she’s having other than where scripted. Joyous anarchy is not part of this show’s DNA; only Stedman as Silly Sidney ever feels truly spontaneous.

The musical arrangements are tight, and the small ensemble plays well together, but ultimately the evening felt somewhat underwhelming, with nothing to match the impressive stagecraft of the Giant in last year’s production, for instance. For the youngest audience members, though, there are some engaging moments and no lack of warmth from the cast.

Reviewer: Mark Smith