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Sleeping Beauty at Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch

It wasn’t that long ago when anyone who gave warnings about Sleeping Beauty would be dismissed as more than a little ridiculous. The concern is that the story is, in part, about a man kissing a woman who isn’t able to give explicit consent. After all, if the prince doesn’t kiss the princess, she dies, so the better option is to proceed, and the princess isn’t exactly upset or angry about the kiss after it happens. I can’t help but agree with those who assert that implied consent is there, reinforced by the positive reaction from the princess. This production arguably tackles the consent argument a little too bluntly: I say ‘arguably’ because it is, in the end, a pantomime, and therefore being over the top is only to be expected.

The cast of Sleeping Beauty at Queen's Theatre Hornchurch. Credit Mark Sepple.
The cast of Sleeping Beauty at Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch. Credit Mark Sepple.

Evidently, the creatives do not take the view that stories that present what is now an outdated view of relationships and power dynamics should be totally disregarded, but rather reimagined. The prince in this version isn’t, he says, an actual prince (fair enough: he works for a living) but just happens to be called Romford Prince (Jerome Lincoln) – that is, the son of Mr and Mrs Prince. The actual princess, Aurora, or Raury (Anna Fordham) as she would like to be known, isn’t bothered, and it’s a case of ‘Prince by name, prince by nature’ for her. I shouldn’t be too bothered either – in the end, who goes to the panto primarily for the storyline?

King ‘Enry the H’eigth of ‘Ornchurch (Alex Tomkins) is far removed from Henry VIII of the House of Tudor in many respects. The name is (meant to be) pronounced in an Essex accent, although I don’t recall anyone referring to him as ‘Is Majesty. The local references keep coming, including West Ham United Football Club bedsheets and name-dropping nearby Dagenham. The panto dame here is Super Nanny (Dominic Gee-Burch) – the word association with the television series Supernanny is about all she has in common with Jo Frost.

The antagonist, Vampira Vanity (Hannah Woodward) received boos without having to subtly encourage the audience to respond, which is always, paradoxically, a good sign. Fairy Falalala-la-lala-la-laa (Laura Sillet) doesn’t, mercifully, overdo it by insisting her full name is sung every single time – the omission of the final ‘la’ by another character at one point precipitated a chorus of corrections from the audience, which reminded me of the Channel 4 show It’s A Sin. Completing the on-stage characters are Prim (Marta Miranda) and Proppa (Ben Barrow).

All are multiskilled – the near-relentless actor-musicianship of previous Hornchurch pantos has been dialled down somewhat here. This doesn’t stop the cast from showcasing their ability to switch between different instruments slickly and seamlessly. The costume changes were sufficiently quick whenever the Fairy worked her magic, and with just a smattering of innuendo, which seemed to go over the heads of most of the adults in the audience as well as the children, this panto is firmly in the realm of Family Fun. Oh yes it is.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

In a magical fairy kingdom, happy plans are underway for Princess Raury’s christening. But a bad fairy has been missed off the invite list, and descends on the party casting a wicked curse.

So when 18-year-old Raury pricks her finger on a spinning wheel, and falls asleep for many years, it takes bravery and courage to wake up and face a very different world. But the bad fairy is up to more mischief, and Raury is soon setting off to the rescue, aided by her zany Nanny and family, to ensure true love can find its way…

Ben Barrow – Proppa
Anna Fordham – Princess Raury
Dominic Gee-Burch – Super Nanny
Jerome Lincoln – Romford Prince
Marta Miranda – Prim
Laura Sillet – Fairy Falalalalalalalala
Alex Tomkins – King ‘Enry
Hannah Woodward – Vampira

Written by Andrew Pollard
Directed by Caroline Leslie
Original music and lyrics by Tom Self
Set and costume design by Dora Schweitzer
Lighting design by Stephen Pemble
Sound Design by Leigh Davies
Choreography by Lee Crowley
Costume Supervisor Rachel Perry
Executive Producer Mathew Russell
Deputy Stage Manager Melody Wright
Assistant Stage Manager Mercedes Mole-Jones

Sleeping Beauty
24th November – 31st December 2022

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1 thought on “Sleeping Beauty at Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch”

  1. A funny and most enjoyable way of telling the story of Sleeping Beauty. There were lots of jokes and inuendos. The dame was hilarious and was respectfully taking the piss out of a man in the public. The whole cast performed superbly. Excellent voices and expert multitalented actor musicians. An evening to enjoy with the whole family.

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