“A sweet treat for children this Easter”.
Whether you are a die-hard theatregoer, or an individual who occasionally likes to dip their toes into the wonderful world of theatre, you can always rely on the magic of pantomime to put a big smile on your face. Pantomimes are well known for spreading Christmas cheer and getting us ready for the festivities ahead – but we are seeing Easter pantomimes becoming more frequent and taking place in theatres all over the UK over the Easter period. Liverpool’s Epstein Theatre is where Regal Entertainments LTD’s production of Sleeping Beauty nests (Easter pun – get it?!) until the 16th April. Does this pantomime make audiences hoppier than ever this Easter? Or is it not all that it has cracked up to be?
Sleeping Beauty is a familiar traditional tale for many – we meet a princess who is put under a wicked spell and is sent into a deep sleep by the Evil Queen, a spell that can only be broken by true love’s kiss. This production written by Liam Mellor and Chantelle Nolan does not deviate far from its original material. The pantomime begins with the sickly-sweet, good fairy (Katy Mac) welcoming the audience and setting the scene of the story with a flashback to the birth of Princess Aurora (Mia Molloy) and it is here that we first meet our pantomime dame – Dame Queenie (Mark Two) and the King (Warren Donnelly). We then meet the evil queen Carabose (Rachael Wood) as she forewarns the future of Princess Aurora – initially this was an exciting introduction to the story about to unfold but the storyline seemed to stagnate from there on, up until the end of act two. Whilst we do not expect an overly complex or deep storyline in a pantomime, this production seemed to focus more on trying to get the crowd going rather than following a storyline or allowing any sort of character development. We all love audience participation during a pantomime, this is an essential in spreading the cheer but these scenes in which audience participation was required seem to drag on a little too much and were too often, which left little time for any sort of plot or character development.
Mark Two gives good effort in getting the audience geared up as the Dame – there is a good mix of naff jokes for the youngsters and plenty of political and local jokes as well as the added innuendo to keep the adults in good spirits. I personally would have liked to see the more flamboyant side to the Dame which is always a fan favourite character of a pantomime. Reece Sibbald is solid throughout as the Jester and it is obvious that he has a wealth of pantomime experience under his belt. He has the audience in the palm of his hands as they chant along with him and root for his character. We find out that he is in love with the princess, and he wishes to tell her – but this is never followed through with which I feel was a missed opportunity in the story.
Lewis Burrage plays the prince with real confidence and likeability; it is clear from the tiny snippets we see of him that he has fantastic talent but unfortunately he does not get much chance to demonstrate it apart from one song he sings with the princess. Katy Mac, Mia Molloy and Rachael Wood must all be commended for their knockout vocals throughout – their solo songs are key highlights of this pantomime. Warren Donnelly has high potential as the King which we see in small snippets, but again we did not get much chance to see his character develop. The ensemble of dancers from Dynamix: Performing Arts College demonstrated throughout their strong competencies in a range of different dance styles and were definitely essential in giving the songs additional pizzazz.
Rebecca Quinn and Ella Duffy have done an excellent job in the costume department, perfectly encapsulating quintessential pantomime outfits full of sparkle. In particular, the Dame’s outfits became more extravagant each time that she appeared on stage, slightly becoming closer to the bone each time but they had the adult audience members grinning with glee. Carabose’s evil queen outfits were visually stunning – with glorious horns and long, sequined capes that would give Maleficent a good run for her money.
Musical supervision comes from Callum Clarke – to begin with, the songs chosen appeared to be original songs which whilst I appreciate the bold choice to include these, they felt a little bit flat. I would have preferred for there to have been well known songs throughout to keep the high energy that a pantomime requires. However, there is a good mix of songs to please the varying ages of the audience. There is a snippet of a song which is currently a TikTok trend, in which the whole cast dance along with which seems to please the younger audience members. There is good use of lighting designed by Katie Bishop and operated by Dan Williams which gives the stage a colourful and excitable feel – at times it feels slightly overbearing, especially when sitting towards the front of the stalls.
Overall, Regal Entertainment LTD’s production of Sleeping Beauty is a fun few hours at the theatre and a definite sweet treat for children this Easter. The songs and choreography are excitable and high energy, and it is a visual treat for the audiences. I personally would have loved to have just seen a little more plot development and character development in order to give the standout cast a good chance in allowing their incredible talent to shine through.