Monday, April 22

Sleeping Beauty – M&S Bank Arena

On 20th December I had the pleasure of watching ‘Sleeping Beauty’ at the M&S Bank Arena Auditorium, which turned out to be a truly wonderful evening of seasonal entertainment for an audience of all ages. The abundance of customary double-entendre did not fail to provoke giggles from the adults without detracting from the traditional family-friendly format of the great British institution of Christmas panto.

The eclectic mix of popular music was adapted perfectly to the storyline with some notable pieces perfectly showcasing the beautiful vocal ability of Lucy Kay, playing The Fairy in our tale. Audience members, young and old, thoroughly enjoyed clapping and dancing along to the well-known songs throughout. A particular highlight and example of this was the ever-popular ‘YMCA’ which had the whole audience showing off their moves.

The pretty, sweet-natured Princess Beauty, convincingly played by Hope Thompson, was a delight to watch. She had eye-catching and engaging stage presence, elevating her scenes with animated expression and movement. Through his warm, charming persona, his dashing looks and his rich vocals, Joseph Hewlett had the audience in the palm of his hand in his role of the dashing Prince. Arguably, the Fairy (played by Lucy Kay) was the most vocally impressive performance of the evening. She delivered a wide variety of hits pitch-perfectly while effortlessly portraying her fairy-tale role with copious amounts of sparkle and flair, which delighted the audience. A welcome surprise was the ease and conviction with which Katie Price portrayed the villainous character of Carabosse. While demonstrating strong vocal ability, her evil cackle and scheming ways did not fail to raise obligatory boos every time she graced the stage.

However, in my opinion, the show-stealers were Bippo and Andy Brennan in their respective roles of Castle Clown and Queen Fifi (compulsory pantomime dame). What a pair! This hilarious comedy duo left the audience in tears and gave the most original comedic performance of any Pantomime I have seen for some time. Copious amounts of new material, delivered with non-stop energy, entertained and engaged throughout and made audience participation unavoidable for everyone.

Boasting a fabulously professional-looking set of enormous stature, it was clear from the start that this promised to be a high calibre and well executed production. Excellent props such as a full-scale Punch and Judy set and a levitating cage, plus an abundance of special effects such as pyrotechnics, illusion and even 3D technology elevated this pantomime to another level and justified the ticket prices. Intricate scenery and perfectly executed lighting combined to create visually epic scenes. Sound technology was faultless, all characters were clearly audible, and the live band thoroughly deserved huge commendation.

A wonderfully talented ensemble of dancers of all ages bolstered a star-studded cast to deliver a highly enjoyable evening of festive frivolity and laughter keeping the pantomime tradition well and truly alive.

Shone Productions ‘Sleeping Beauty’ is running at the M&S Bank Arena’s Auditorium until 30th December (including an adults only performance on the evening of 27th December) and represents a great value festive experience for all.

Reviewer: Grace Annabel

Reviewed: 20th December 2023

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.