Yvonne Arnaud Theatre
The Yvonne Arnaud always delivers a family friendly, fun-filled panto and Sleeping Beauty is no exception. With local favourites Jamie Brook (Muddles) and Peter Gordon (Nanny Fanny) providing the comic relief, the audience is treated to slapstick, wordplay, time travelling fun and of course the highly anticipated "12 Days of Christmas" song where things get marvellously messy.
The duo is the highlight of the show that is slightly patchy elsewhere. In a nod to the climate emergency and to bring the show bang up to date, Prince Florizel is an eco warrior and vlogger while Princess Aurora is a scientist—one of her inventions actually helps save the day. Whilst there’s no harm in updating these fairy tales to have a modern twist (and some would argue it’s imperative we do so), this adaptation does feel laboured in places, particularly the number of “hashtag” jokes. It’s a tricky balance to stay traditional without being outdated, but this is a very ‘woke’ production that leaves the central love story a tad too earnest even for pantoland.
Script reservations aside, however, Sleeping Beauty still delivers all of the classic ingredients and the children in the audience were lapping up the opportunities to join in.
As Carabosse, Kit Hesketh-Harvey provides plenty of opportunities for booing and hissing. Resplendent in black and red, he glides across the stage with an evil smirk, the whole plot beneath him. Always a sarcastic baddie, he gets as many laughs as boos although his trademark throwaway delivery style did unfortunately mean a few lines were lost this year.
Guiding us through the magical tale, Yolanda Ovide as Fairy Stardust proves very engaging. Very much a cool magical being, she creates her own sparkle without needing a massive gown or tiara, channelling excitable Blue Peter presenter rather than pageant queen.
As Prince and Princess, Andy Smith and Holly Tandy are well matched vocally and their rendition of "Shallow" is a touching moment in an otherwise upbeat musical selection. The love interest roles are always the most difficult to play successfully but both tackle their parts with enthusiasm and appropriate levels of innocence.
The main cast are supported by an animated ensemble who fill the stage with great energy and execute Katie Beard's energetic choreography with ease. The junior members often proudly take centre-stage and very much hold their own, particularly Aurora’s birthday dance-off.
With song choices ranging from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’s "Hushaby Mountain" and Olly Murrs’s "Dance With Me Tonight" through to Alice Cooper’s "Poison", there is something for everyone to clap or sway along to propelling the plot forward and highlighting the vocal talents of the cast.
With cartoon-like set, colourful costumes and plenty of actual magic (thank you Jamie Brook!), Sleeping Beauty is a wacky adventure that left the children shouting for more and the adults fearful of further water pistols. Another fairytale ending for Guildford audiences and the Yvonne Arnaud panto team.
Reviewer: Amy Yorston