MY WEEK (December 18, 2014): High energy, low-tech show has appealing DIY charm

Craig Bunce as the storyteller in Manor Theatre Group's Sleeping Beauty
Craig Bunce as the storyteller in Manor Theatre Group's Sleeping Beauty

Panto season’s in full swing once more and performers, both professional and amateur, are having fun with their festive productions.

Phil Hewitt’s interviewed another cast member from this year’s Capitol pantomime, Cinderella (page 40), and Gina Stainer’s reviewed the show (page 45).

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Mark Dunford’s also given his verdict on The Hawth’s panto, Sleeping Beauty (page 45), so I thought I’d chip in with my review of the Manor Theatre Group’s production. Like Mark, I also saw a Sleeping Beauty, but this was a very different take on the material...

Sleeping Beauty by Manor Theatre Group, North Heath Hall, Horsham, December 13

Co-ordinating such a large cast (more than 16 people) on such a small stage can’t be an easy task, but director Laine Watson seems to have pulled it off for Manor Theatre Group’s Sleeping Beauty.

It’s a kind of controlled chaos, with kings, fairies, dashing heroes and even Santa Claus singing, punning and bickering in a high energy and low-tech production.

Craig Bunce breaks the fourth wall as the play’s storyteller, building up a good relationship with the audience, and Charlie McCulloch does this too with the bubbly, vegetable-obsessed dame Madam Multibuy.

Kathryn Felton has a lot of fun as Maleficent, a rather stroppy, overly theatrical villainess who’s not really as mean as she pretends to be, while Becky Waine demonstrates good comic timing as Sleeping Beauty. It’s great the way she demands attention after pricking her finger and Becky delivers a killer line about this incident, which I’ll leave to the reader’s imagination.

The two ‘budget fairies’ – Fairy Liquid played by Darren Worsfold and Fairy Nuff played by Dennis Manning – have a fun chemistry. Their slapstick routines, featuring flour, eggs and cream pies, certainly hit the spot and one scene gets a huge laugh when the Sugar Plum Fairy (Anna Bird) gets involved.

The brash Prince Eggbert, played by Stephen Foster wearing ridiculous pimp threads, is a treat. He fancies himself as a player, but is so averse to kissing his intended that he contorts his face into bizarre expressions to prepare himself.

In contrast, Julian Tiley’s portrayal of the princess’s true love, the shy and modest James, is genuinely endearing and elicits a few “awws” from theatregoers.

There are too many performers to mention individually but everyone gives it everything they’ve got with a script that caters for all ages.

There are some fluffed lines and the singing is generally (how should I put this?) not brilliant, but it’s all part of the fun. Sleeping Beauty is a good night out and has a real DIY charm, which easily wins over its audience.