Where the mishaps are magical
Review: Sleeping Beauty, Marlowe Theatre,
by Chris Price
The mark of a great panto is how unscripted those apparently
off-the-cuff moments appear. Great writers weave in sequences where
things seem to go wrong, that are in fact, carefully choreographed
Equally the mark of a great pantomime actor is how convincing
they can make these “slip ups” appear. In both cast and script,
Sleeping Beauty at the Marlowe Theatre had these qualities in
Although Gareth Gates and Toyah Willcox carried top billing, the
stars were undoubtedly Ben Roddy as Nurse Nellie and Lloyd Hollett
as Jangles, whose goofy camaraderie on stage was the source of the
vast majority of laughs.
Their well-placed giggles and gaffs – “come on Gareth, I mean
Prince Michael” cries Hollett – were only surpassed by the
beautifully-crafted and hilarious sequence where the two conversed
via song titles. It also afforded Gates and Willcox amusing
appearances, the former continually referred to as Darius by
A later scene in a booby-trapped bathroom was comedy gold for
parents and children alike.
The crowd were even left wondering whether members of the
audience were in fact, strategically placed crew members, such was
the hilarity of some of the heckles.
“Don’t touch it!” shrilly screamed someone at the back as
Carabosse, played deliciously devilish by Toyah Willcox, revealed
the last working spinning wheel in the land to Beauty, played by
Indeed, the chemistry between Brooks and leading man Gates,
playing Prince Michael, was closely monitored by those who have
read the revelations about the pair in the press. A tender kiss was
certainly convincing and the duets between the Unchained Melody
singer and the West End songstress were fab.
A touching moment came shortly before the Ghostbusters song,
when Roddy acknowledged “his friend Dave,” nodding to the late Dave
Lee, who died earlier this year. A legend in these parts, he
performed more than 1,000 pantomimes without missing a show, but it
is a credit to Roddy as the Dame that this show did not feel any
less brilliant without the city’s pantomime favourite.
Children’s favourite Katrina Bryan, from Nina and the Neurons,
and panto stalwart Ieuan Rhys served Roddy and Hollett plenty of
opportunity to rib them for their respective Scottish and Welsh
The wow factor is that no expense has been spared by Evolution
Productions, demonstrated spectacularly by the dragon, named Helga
after writer and producer Paul Hendy’s mother-in-law, the show’s
costume and set designer. Paul’s wife, Emily Wood, also produces
As it clawed its way out to the front of the stage, flames shot
up, drawing gasps from wide-eyed little ones at the burst of heat.
You can’t script that.
Sleeping Beauty runs until Sunday, January 20, 2013. Tickets
£11 to £30.50. Box office 01227 787787 or www.marlowetheatre.com
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