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Sleeping Beauty

Eric Potts
Coliseum Theatre, Oldham

Sleeping Beauty production photo

With almost the same team as last year, Oldham Coliseum once again goes the traditional panto route for Christmas, this year with panto veteran writer Eric Potts' take on the Sleeping Beauty story with all of the ingredients that audiences have come to expect from the form.

The cast is once again led by Fine Time Fontayne as the dame (he has already been booked for next year's Dick Whittington which took over £18,500 on its first day of bookings), this time as Nurse Nora, supported as last year by Richard J Fletcher as Larry Occlesthorpe with Patrick Bridgman returning as absent-minded King Cuthbert and Linzi Matthews as Queen Hermione. Fontayne revels in his off-script interactions with the audience and the other members of the cast, and some of the funniest parts of the show for adults are when Fontayne, Bridgman and Fletcher compete to try to throw one another or point out each others' mistakes. Adults are also served by a few saucily-suggestive gags from Fontayne.

Representing magical good and evil are Heledd Baskerville as a pleasant Welsh Fairy Rainbow and Sue Devaney as evil fairy Carabosse. Devaney appears to really enjoy the back-and-forth with the audience and is superb in the part, although she did bring to my mind a Julie Walters comedy character taken to extremes with many of her facial and vocal expressions.

Nicole Evans is an appealing Princess Rose, doubling in the early scenes as Minnie the Milkmaid when the Princess is still a baby. In the principal boy (Prince Lorenzo) part, Amy Rhiannon Worth brings rather more substance and comedy to the role than it often has and also doubles in the early scenes as comic character Careless Carrie, which she pulls off very well.

Celia Perkins has designed a very nice and bright set and costumes that give the appearance of a modern children's picture book, and there are some very well-done video effects for the turning of the pages of the giant storybook and the vines growing over the castle, although the latter is spoiled a little by the rather tacky fibre optic versions that are draped around the set. There are some issues with the sound that is rather dull during the songs and occasionally distorted during the speech.

Director Kevin Shaw and his cast give us 'he's behind you', a messy cookery scene, a community song with kids dragged up from the audience, a dame with a different over-the-top costume for every scene, jokes and routines that are older than anyone in the cast or audience and some that refer to current or local events or TV programmes, a good mixture of pop and show songs and lots of apparently improvised banter between performers and with the audience.

The only possible issue is that with a normal 7:30 start the show doesn't finish until 10:15, which is rather late for young children on a weekday. Otherwise the Coliseum has produced another varied and entertaining show for all the family.

Reviewer: David Chadderton