Magical panto is fun for all ages – oh yes it is!

Alnwick Theatre Club Sleeping Beauty'Members of the chorus.
Alnwick Theatre Club Sleeping Beauty'Members of the chorus.
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Alnwick Theatre Club performed Sleeping Beauty at Alnwick Playhouse on Tuesday, January 21.

Enchanting, entertaining and at times, very funny – this was Alnwick Theatre Club’s latest pantomime. Oh yes it was!

Alnwick Theatre Club Sleeping Beauty'Members of the court.

Alnwick Theatre Club Sleeping Beauty'Members of the court.

Sleeping Beauty, by Alan Frayn, had all the ingredients for this kind of a show; audience participation aplenty, corny jokes and slapstick humour...and water pistols, to give some onlookers a bit of a soaking.

In traditional panto style, the story is about the conflict of good versus evil.

On the one side, is the good Fairy Lilac (Julie Vint) and her four young helpers.

They spread good health and happiness throughout the kingdom.

On the evil side, is Bad Witch Hazel (Susan Joyce) and her minions who spread their evil by casting a spell on the baby Princess Rose.

But, with the help of Prince Alexander (Helen Gee), there is hope that happiness can return to the kingdom of King Cactus (John Firth) and Queen Marigold (Fiona Cuthbert).

For me, the panto didn’t hit the heights of previous years.

The absence of regular faces such as Nick Lewis, Gary Brown and, in particular, Peter Lewis and dame Jimmy Dodds was undoubtedly a miss.

But that’s not to say that there weren’t good performances and this wasn’t an enjoyable show. Far from it.

Trevor Hughes had the unenviable task of taking on the role of dame.

Big shoes to fill as people who have seen Dodds in that role in previous years will no doubt testify.

But you know what, Hughes more than did his character justice. There was banter aplenty with the audience – particularly with male members – and he was every bit as melodramatic and camp as the role demanded.

For me, the stand-out player was Joyce, with a fine performance as Bad Witch Hazel.

She was suitably nasty and prompted boos and hisses from the audience each time she came on – proof that she was delivering as the baddie.

Her characterisation reminded me of Bette Midler’s portrayal of Winifred ‘Winnie’ Sanderson in the Disney film Hocus Pocus.

The panto was packed with music and I thought Vint coped with her solo pieces very well, in particular Hushabye Mountain and Any Dream Will Do.

There were some good set-pieces, in particular a place-name sketch involving Fetch (Daniel Watkins) and Carrie (Lisa Gladstone). This was probably the funniest moment of the show.

Like previous years, the theatre club threw in some local gags for good measure.

Some of the slapstick moments came from Alnwick Theatre Club chairman Peter Biggers, playing Muddles.

He did very well in the role of the lovable, but simple, handyman.

Merryn Hughes gave a delicate performance as Princess Rose while Gee was charming, bold and dashing as Prince Alexander.

Hughes has come up through the ranks, having been in the Youth Theatre Group.

It is pleasing to see this transition and the development of actors through the two organisations.

One of the highlights of the night was a dramatic dance routine by the talented Alnwick Academy of Dance.

It was a powerful piece of choreography, added to by a glow-in-the-dark sequence. It certainly prompted the loudest cheer of the night from the audience.

The artwork on the backdrops was very impressive and there was some nicely-worked scene changes. Producers Chris and Heather Howey certainly created a slick production.

Sleeping Beauty opened at the Alnwick Playhouse last Friday and it runs until the weekend.

Admission is £10, £9 conc and £6 child/student.

For more information and for tickets, call 01665 510785, visit alnwickplayhouse.co.uk or pop into the box office.