Wednesday, 27 January 2016

"Sleeping Beauty" by Burton Joyce Players
Burton Joyce and Bulcote Village Hall

The Burton Joyce Players present their annual panto, written by Julie Shone and directed by Avril McCormick, and has a cast that won't put you to sleep for any length of time. it's a lively story with some amusing characters and, although it strays slightly from the traditional storyline in places, it's a refreshing take on the well worn tale.

It's packed with fun pop tunes that is aimed at the younger audience but still retains the dancing girls section to a nice ballet section to Saint Saens "The Aquarium" from "The Carnival Of Animals". The dancing courtesy of The Sally Ashworth Dancers. As I said, some brilliant singalong, poppy numbers like "Bills", which the audience practically took over in the chorus, "Y.M.C.A", Abba's "Gimme Gimme Gimme", Taylor Swift's "Shake It Up", Take That's "Greatest Day" and many many more.

The panto, at times was a bit like "The Play That Goes Wrong" with forgotten lines, sound effects that were late, bangs and noises from back stage, a lack of lighting in one part, but you know what, all of these added to the fun of the show and,althouigh this was a non-professional production, the cast took all of this in their stride. At one stage Tom Shepherd, who played Brother Contagious, one of the monks, ad libbed that even the Theatre Royal forget their lines, and he's right. It's how you deal with it and move on that makes the difference and these lot dealt with these minor issues admirably.

I can remember seeing actor Amanda Donohue in a play where she forgot her lines twice and barked for her line. I also saw Shane Richie, in a different play, forget his lines and made a joke of it and carried on. Who do you think gained my respect more?

You can see in an actor's eyes when something has gone wrong. You'll either see blind panic and fear or you'll see a twinkle, knowing that they can use it to their advantage and run with it until he gets on track, and I saw both in the eyes of some of these panto members. Nevertheless it all added to the great fun of this production, and some bits should be kept in, as I found the late door creak quite amusing.

So to the actors. Chris Mercer played Dame Diddleum and as soon as I saw his name in this role, I knew it would be classic dame fare. having seen Chris in a couple of other productions last year, I'd every confidence in a pacy and fun dame, and I was not disappointed.

Zoe Sansom played Princess Charlotte, and what a lovely clear voice she has, and she also dealt well with the "enthusiasm" of the young crowd while singing her ballad.

The two monks, and I must admit, were my favourites. Tom Shepherd, who looks like a young Andy Whyment from Coronation Street, and Adam Miller (Brother Infectious). Adam is such a laid back actor and his self confidence brings a very relaxed and confident performance to his character. Even when the jokes went wrong, he still battled on and got the laugh. A very funny pairing which really worked well.

I loved The Wicked Fairy. Linda Burgin's performance reminded me a little of Jo Brand (and I love Jo Brand). frightening enough to be scary but not overstepping that line and combining the wickedness with just enough of a comedy element to make it all work.

The Nelligan Sisters were, again, a wonderful piece of casting in Kathy Matthews and Jane Murray. They made me smile! The director also got it spot on with the King and Queen (Steve Armstrong and Lisa Ostrowsky-Weston).

The good fairies were led by the King of The fairies and again, loved Trevor Wright's really confident role. Looking like a Bowie/Bolan jumpsuit model, he harked back to the days of glam rock with his costume and make-up.

One fairy I must single out was the Sugar Plum Fairy, played by Ian Hichens. The most unlikely fairy ever and I loved it. Another brilliant comedy role.

Tom McHugh played Billy Bun and, in the nicest possible way, all I had to do was look at him in character, and he made me smile.

There were several other roles including the photographer, Mr Snappit, the Town Crier and his apprentice (who's face I recognised but couldn't see a credit in the programme), the pantomime horse, a bear, rooks, a panto dog and of course Prince Charming, played by Dan Miller. Every ingredient and character went to make a very enjoyable panto.

Look out for the audience participation bits, and there are several you can join in with. At first I thought a tad too many but it all worked for the different characters well.

Really good use of lighting to highlight the good and the bad characters, by Steve Hughes and some brilliant costumes for all characters, thanks to Jenny Harwood. And the sets weren't at all bad either; a pat on the back to Lynn Carr,Linda McDonough and Sara Kyle.

All in all a fun, pacy and enthusiastic show with some good bouncy pop songs and some funny, and original alongside the classic, jokes. Some of these slightly over the heads of the young crowd in on first night. Well worth seeing.

"Sleeping Beauty" is on at The Burton Joyce and Bulcote Village Hall until Saturday 30 January 2016.

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