Sleeping Beauty

Date 13th January 2024
Society Compton Little Theatre
Venue Compton Village Hall
Type of Production Pantomime
Director Frazer Woodhams and Fred Pollard
Written By Frazer Woodhams and Fred Pollard

Report

Author: Pauline Surrey

A good fun evening again in Compton Village Hall, it always brightens up a dull January. The jokes, I think, were rather good, though often not that easy to hear.

There is nothing quite like panto in a village hall, with the super atmosphere that creates, and that of Compton never disappoints. It has a separate bar area, and some raised seating at the back. The entrance is to the rear, which enables performers to thrill this section of the audience as they proceed through to the stage.

Lighting was used very effectively throughout. Sound was good, though might still be tinkered with during the musical performances, especially those involving the children and young people. Their voices are quieter, and it seems a pity that the amusing lyrics of their songs can often not be clearly heard.

Costumes were generally splendid. The junior chorus sported red and white chefs’ outfits, if I remember correctly, with marvellous moustaches.  The Good Fairy wore a layered gossamer like dress, very pretty, and flowers in her hair. The Bad Fairy wore a striking dark green voluminous, shimmery cloak and gown, with a headdress of feathers of the same colour, and scary makeup to match. The Queen looked very regal in her long purple dress, and Princess Aurora had a variety of very pretty frocks. Ignacio, the Dragon, had a rather good gold-flecked black cloak. Betty Biscuits, our Dame, sported an array of ever more outrageous outfits and wigs, and at one stage jungle gear complete with a pith helmet. Once again, a super effort from the costume department.

The various sets all added to the atmosphere, a very good kitchen backdrop and a beautiful forest scene stay in my mind. Compton Little Theatre has a great set artist in Pat Williams. As far as props are concerned, there was a whacky ice cream machine, and a very odd spinning wheel to be assembled Ikea style, and thus predictably wonky.

A super moment in the first half was the appearance of the junior chorus and their rendition of ‘Food Glorious Food’, with its cleverly altered lyrics. Another high point  was Witless Will’s ever longer monologue about buying spicy sausages from Sue at Sainsburys. That was an amazing feat, goodness knows how long it took him to perfect it! Henry Moore must be congratulated on his whole performance throughout, my young reviewers, (grandchildren), thought he was the Bees Knees!

The sister fairies, Meadowblossom (Jayne Atkinson) and Nightshade (Gemma Taylor) were well balanced, with Nightshade being suitably scary with her wide sweeping gestures and evil glare, and Meadowblossom bringing a comforting, reassuring element that all would be well in the end. Hugo Wilson as Bettie Biscuits was a great Dame, doing all the outrageous things Dames do with great aplomb.

The two guards, Spit and Polish, who flunked it by allowing Nightshade to enter the palace and place her curse on Princess Aurora, were ably played by Amy Aiello and Gayle Lafone. They were demoted to cleaners, but due to their brave actions later on were promoted to knights.

There was a very funny kitchen scene with the funky and faulty ice-cream machine. Whichever way it was tried, wherever people stood, it was always poor Will who got covered in ice-cream! At the party to celebrate Princess Aurora’s (Amelie Wilson) birthday, Prince Gideon (Isabel Moore) with his feisty cousin Lady Jamie (Millie Ayshford) appeared. Jamie caught the attention of Witless Will.

The second half was faster paced than the first, with more action to excite the young audience. Nightshade put a love potion spell on Prince Gideon, and spirited him off to her forest lair, so that he would fall in love with her as the first person he espied on waking. This duly came to pass, and the besotted Gideon then took over Spineless’s role, waiting on Nightshade hand and foot, while the doughty but dim Spineless (Mandy Scully) was one by one capturing the pursuers from the palace, dressed up as a wolf.

The pursuers, Meadowblossom, Spit and Polish got picked off one by one, and imprisoned at Nightshade’s lair, leaving poor Betty Biscuits all alone and desperate. Nightshade had warned of the dragon Ignacio who lived in the forest, he suddenly appeared. Kevin Drury was absolutely splendid as the dragon, who turned out not to be so scary as Nightshade had warned. He lit up the stage in fact, loved to sing and dance, rather than fight, as we discovered when Will and Jamie appeared, also on the hunt for Prince Gideon. When a duel between him and the highly skilful swordsman Lady Jamie was mooted, he suggested a dance-off with Will, which was a highlight of the show, both ‘combatants’ performing with great energy and skill.

So the story continued, the prince was found, he was rescued from the spell, kissed, woke and fell in love with the Princess. The dragon was smitten with Betty Biscuits, and Will with Jamie, and vice versa of course, and all ended happily ever after with the grand finale to the sound of Wham’s ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go’.

Everybody left with a smile on their face, out into the January cold.