Home » London Theatre Reviews » Sleeping Beauty at the Churchill Theatre, Bromley | Review

Sleeping Beauty at the Churchill Theatre, Bromley | Review

December in theatreland and everything changes. Gone are the long hard plays of life the universe and everything and in their place come fluff, singing and enough sequins to cover the planet. Yes, after a year’s enforced absence, panto season is back and firing on all cylinders, as I found out with a trip to the Churchill Theatre, Bromley for their seasonal offering Sleeping Beauty.

Sleeping Beauty - Christy/Craig Sugden Photography.
Sleeping Beauty – Christy/Craig Sugden Photography.

Do you really need me to go over the plot? Just in case, here we go. Princess Beauty (Claudillea Holloway) is very excited as she is going to be celebrating her 21st birthday with a party thrown by her mother Queen Voluptua (Joelle Moses). The party will be attended by everyone who is everyone, but for the princess, the most important guests will be her best friend Muddles, the Court Jester (Lloyd Hollett) and the handsome Prince Harry of Holby (Lee Mead). With me so far? What Princess Beauty doesn’t know is that when she was a baby the wicked Carabosse (Myra Dubois) put a curse that if she was to prick her finger on a spinning wheel before her 21st birthday, she would die.

The queen, in consultation with the Lilac Fairy (Bonnie Langford), has ordered every spinning wheel in the Kingdom to be destroyed, so the Princess should be safe from Carabosse’s curse, but will she be?

Sometimes at the opening of a new show, the critics will bemoan the fact that it’s nothing new and too formulaic and has nothing novel about it. In Pantomime, that is not a criticism but is one of the crowning glories of this theatrical style. We love the fact that the stories are wafer-thin, that the narrative follows a well-trod path. We love the fact that we don’t have to follow the normal rules of theatrical etiquette – apart from no photography, videoing, or mobile phones. We can sing along to the songs; we can shout at the baddy and cheer loudly when the goodies arrive. In short, a trip to a panto is the one legally and socially acceptable time that no matter how old we are, we can be a kid again, and boy, does Sleeping Beauty give us that opportunity.

Writer Alan McHugh has put together a show which will appeal to every age group, with some wonderfully convoluted songs and tongue twisters that have you rocking with laughter. There is a lovely recap of the last year, not to mention Muddles’ opening number telling us of his comedy inspirations and I can’t go without mentioning the most unusual and hilarious version of the 12 Days of Christmas ever.

The theatre website describes the cast as “It’s the star casting that dreams are made of!” and I have to agree. Langford, Dubois and Hollett in particular are just out of this world. Not only are they great in their respective roles – The Lilac Fairy, Carabosse and Muddles – but they have a real chemistry between them that shines out over the footlights. This is particularly true in the “Who sells sushi?” scene which, it’s obvious, they all thoroughly enjoy. Myra, who I’ve seen on the London drag circuit, was perfect as the wicked fairy. The kids loved her and although some of her lines may have gone over their heads, the adults really responded to them.

I loved the rest of the cast as well, and a big shout out to the very hard-working ensemble – Ben Anderson, Ollie Augustin, Gabriella Conradie, Imogen Kingsley-Smith, Hannah Shoard and Harley Stephen – who sang, danced, moved scenery and smiled for every minute of the production.

Full credit to Director and Choreographer Gary Lloyd who keeps the action going, and to both the costume and scenery designers for producing the perfect pantomime ambience. There was a slight issue with sound during some of the songs where the music slightly drowned out the words but, do you know what, it doesn’t matter. The production is exactly what a pantomime is meant to be.

Incredibly professional put together but also looking like the cast are improvising as they go along. I usually approach panto in a semi-negative way. I expect some fun, but I won’t be joining in the songs, cheers, boos, etc. That lasted for about 5 minutes with Sleeping Beauty. Everything about this production is fun and entertaining and guaranteed to get your little tykes, older tykes, and every other type of tyke into the holiday spirit, and after the last 18 months, that’s a tonic we could all do with.

5 Star Rating

Review by Terry Eastham

Once upon a time in a land far away, the beautiful Princess Aurora is given a sixteenth birthday present by her evil godmother Carabosse. By pricking her finger on an enchanted spinning wheel she is placed under a cruel curse and forced to sleep for 100 years. Can true love survive and the handsome Prince Charming break the spell? Can Aurora’s hilarious best friend Muddles help save the town and who will outwit the evil Enchantress and foil her wicked plans?

Sleeping Beauty
Christmas Pantomime starring Lee Mead and Bonnie Langford
Churchill Theatre, Bromley
SAT 4 DECEMBER 2021 – SUN 2 JAN 2022


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