Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings


Sammy Lees as Prince Sequin, Debbie Donnelly as Queen Sequin with Page Joel Patel bringing up the rear.

Sleeping Beauty

Hall Green Little Theatre


How Princess Beauty, a demure Maisie-Leigh Jones, managed to sleep at all was either a small miracle or an Oscar-worthy feat of acting.

You see Hall Green pantos defy the normal rules of theatre or indeed reviewing as the audience takes on a life of its own.

On opening night it was groups of Brownies and families with small children and it is a mystery that must have baffled physicists world wide how individuals so small can make so much noise.

Remember Spinal Tap and their amps going up to 11? Small children can go up to 12 and beyond. Not that they were a problem, far from it, they were all impeccably behaved, great fun and as much a part of the show as the cast.

They threw themselves whole heartedly into it never missing a boo, cheer, Muddles’s entrances, when he always had to be reminded to tuck his shirt in, joining in with songs, shouts and anything else they were asked to do and anyone within a mile of the theatre would have been aware a ghost (Katherine Williams) had appeared in the traditional we'll have to sing it again routine.

Matt Ludlam was Muddles, who is the traditional comic character, cheeky chappy, and in Muddles case intellectually challenged in PCspeak. He muddles his way through quite splendidly aided, or probably more hindered, by his mother Dame Penny Cillin, with Paul Hanna elevated to the damehood. When your mum is a bloke in a frock, it might explain much about Muddles.

king and queen

King Pleasant, Benjamin Hurd-Greenhall and his Queen, Aimee Heywood

They are the goodies along with Prince Sequin played in a performance by Sammy Lees that might well have been sponsored by Olde Oak with the amount of ham it contained. It was a fun performance in wonderful B-movie style posturing from a young actor who excelled recently as Zak in Goodnight Mr Tom and gave us a vicious wolf, Maugrin, in The witch, The Lion and The Wardrobe.

He comes complete with loyal page Joel Patel, and is pushed off to get married by Mother Sequin, Debbie Donnelly.

Adding a bit of class to the good guys is Chloe Delpino as Fairy Delightful, who sports a quite lovely, clear speaking voice, and has assistants Fairy 1 and 2, names presumably held up in the post, played by Ruth Holland and Beth Flint.

Announcing the arrival of royals, and getting the audience to stand each time, is the Herals, Hark, a rather hairy, and I mean a lot, Scotsman played by Oli Scott.

If you have goodies you need baddies and they don’t come much badderer than Fairy O’rrible in green sequins and, when the mood takes her/him, matching horns, played with a nasty streak a mile wide by Hall Green regular Jonathan Richardson, another bloke in what is a much flashier frock.

jon ricardson

Jonathan Richardson as Fairy O'rrible - Hair and make up for the panto by Thuy Truong and UCB students, assisted by Eloise Lee-Jones

His reluctant helpers are Loath and Some, Emily Beaton and Lauren Rote who are as unhelpful as possible, with attitude to boot.

O’rrible, Delightful’s sister, had a bit of trouble with the palace a few years back ending in banishment, but she tricks her way in to Princess Beauty’s Christening to lay out some curses as a present, curses modified by Delightful, but spinning wheels are a no no until beauty is 21.

Saving here from harm, well almost as it turns out, are King Pleasant, Benjamin Hurd-Greenhall, a hesitant king as dynamic, brave and decisive as a drying puddle and his Queen, a rather regal Aimee Heywood, who definitely wears the crown in that relationship. The have to stop her being pricked by a spinning wheel.

Jump forward 21 years and, well you can see where this is going, King and Queen fail by a matter of hours to save Beauty from a fate worse than death, although to be fair, death lasts a fair bit longer than 100 years. Just saying . . . after O’rrible sneaks the last remaining spinning wheel into the palace.

Now in case you aren’t following it, Sonya Jackson, looking like a reporter from Wind in the Willows, is the narrator, filling in between scenes.

Some of the dialogue was lost, or more accurately, it just plain lost, beaten into submission by the audience. It's not sophisticated, special effects are thin on the ground, but by golly, as a  panto it achieves everything it sets out to do - provide festive family entertainment for all ages, and the kids absolutely loved it, with a sea of happy excited faces as they set off for home into the night.

My own grandson, who with a reviewer for a granddad, is a seasoned theatre goer, thought it was really good and enjoyed it, and who am I to argue with that.

Directed by Dan Beaton and with songs and music by Richard Woodward, Beauty will be sleeping through the boos, hisses, cheers and shouts from delighted children . . . and all those adults steadfastly refusing to grow up, until 17-12-22.

Roger Clarke



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