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Sleeping Beauty

30 November 2018

Woolly Winter Warmer

Sleeping Beauty

by Ben Crocker

Barnes Community Players, Kitson Hall, Barnes until 1st December

Review by Ian Nethersell

Once upon a time, in the mystical land of ‘Woollybarnes’, we were warmly welcomed to a panto production by the community theatre group Barnes Community Players, Sleeping Beauty.

We knew we had arrived at the venue on this cold damp evening when we spied festoons of bunting and a show banner, the design of which was the winning entry from a competition offered out to local schools. The winner was 9-year-old Maggie Conway-Hughes, whose colourful design featured all the components that make up the tale of Sleeping Beauty.

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On entering the hall we were greeted with the chance to partake in warming mulled wine and various other festive offerings, most appreciated on this dank night. The seasonal cheer continued as we were greeted and seated by our Front-of-House Mrs Santa, wearing a duly appropriate festive fascinator! The overall effect was very jolly and Christmassy, although it would have been nice to enjoy a little more pre-show music – on this particular evening it did not start until ten minutes before curtain up.

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At the back of the hall sat the Lighting and Sound technicians. Quite a bit of installation work had been carried out to transform the tricky and sparse multi-purpose hall into a nicely atmospheric space. The pre-show lighting was at a gentle level with the basic rig being supplemented by a couple of movers which threw wonderful branch-like images on to the thicket gauze; later on in Act II this created a fantastic effect when the Prince was battling through the forest. The walk-down thrust resembled a catwalk runway dressed with hanging snow which brought the action out in the audience space: after all, panto has no fourth wall and at every possible opportunity should invite the audience to engage and take part, which in most parts this production attempted to do.

The colourful set was designed and constructed by the multi-talented Francesca Stone, who, as well as taking on the role of Princess Aurora, also directed the whole show together with Symeon Wade.

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Francesca was an energetic and likeable Princess who displayed a pleasant singing voice and good rapport with the audience. Her parents were played by Terry Oakes and Rodger Hayward Smith as King Norbert and Queen Dottie respectively; both entered into their parts with gusto and were obviously favourites with the local crowd as they ventured ‘off book’.

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Annie Collenette as Kitty the cat was a loveable character, showcasing well-observed cat mannerisms, while Alexa Bushell as Billy, the court’s chief washer-upper, clerk and every other role under the sun, shone with a strong stage presence and a well-projected voice.

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The traditional Fairy Godmother role was played by Marie Bushell, who led a highly entertaining troupe of fey fairies, Andrew Rapley and Symeon Wade – however for me her standout moment was the transformation into a Cockney serving wench in the second half. Songs were sparse in this production, but Roll Out the Barrel showcasing Marie and the enthusiastic chorus as said serving wenches was the most memorable of all. The small role of Prince Orlando, and later on his great, great grandson who was “in no way the same person” was nicely played by Steve Bannell.

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Special mention must go to Jill Turetzsky and Julie Smith as the evil fairy Carabosse and her cat Spindleshanks. This pair really embraced their remit of nastiness and gave a spirited rendition of One Way or Another, hugely appreciated by the audience.

Profits over and above the group’s working capital are donated to local causes, this year the 1st Barnes Rangers Guides and the Castelnau Community Centre, so this production offered a fitting start to this festive and giving season in more ways than one.

Ian Nethersell
November 2018

Photography by Lewis McCarthy

Image by Maggie Conway-Hughes (Aged 9)

 

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From → Pantomime, Reviews

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