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Review: Sleeping Beauty at The Woodville, Gravesend, with Linda Lusardi and Cleopatra

By Ed McConnell

The last time I went to see a pantomime I was eight years old, which coincidentally is the same age as the unexpected star of this year’s performance of Sleeping Beauty at The Woodville, Gravesend.

Bow-tied Kayden’s impromptu on-stage trumpet recital stole the show at the last minute. Children from the audience had been called up to form a band under the careful supervision of Nanny (Rob Forknall) and Silly Billy the jester (Ant Payne).

It was the best of many good examples of the magic of pantomime – a genre which relies on audience participation and improvisation to enthrall parents and children alike.

Rob Forknall is Nanny in Sleeping Beauty which is at The Woodville, Gravesend, until New Year's Day

So as I trudged through sleet and battled the onslaught of ice-cold rain on my approach to the auditorium on Sunday night I had forgotten, as I’m sure many of my age will have, just how amusing the next two hours could be.

Forknall played an excellent dame, with quips such as ‘Where am I from? Fairytaleland... and Maidstannn’ and a risqué nod to ‘Dick... van Dyke’ keeping everyone entertained.

Linda Lusardi is the Wicked Fairy in Sleeping Beauty which is at The Woodville, Gravesend, until New Year's Day

Panto veteran Linda Lusardi was excellent as the Wicked Fairy, while the supreme talent of sister trio Cleopatra (as the Good Fairies) - who I’m reliably informed were quite big in the 90s – left us wondering if a comeback is on the cards.

90s girl band Cleopatra star as the Good Fairies

Overall the performance had something for everyone – soap fans will be pleased to know the assistant director is Leslie Grantham AKA Dirty Den from EastEnders.

Even when the lengthy song and dance segments started to grate on certain members of the audience an adult-friendly joke or slapstick scene was quickly deployed to deliver a much-needed shot of energy.

It was fun from start to finish and most importantly the little ones adored it.

Sleeping Beauty is at The Woodville until New Year’s Day. To book go to www.gravesendpanto.com

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