The Georgian Theatre Royal - Sleeping Beauty - (left to right - Ross Dean as King Samuel and Gary Bridgens as Queen Tryphosa - dame)
The Georgian Theatre Royal - Sleeping Beauty - (left to right - Ross Dean as King Samuel and Gary Bridgens as Queen Tryphosa - dame)

IT is not just the cast who take centre stage in this year’s pantomime of Sleeping Beauty, the theatre is just as much part of the story. Written and produced by Clare Allen, the theatre’s Chief Executive, the set is a brilliant mirror image of the theatre’s auditorium. This version of Sleeping Beauty, set in a theatre moves the story into the actual history of the theatre itself. The cast play actors or in the case of the Maleficent, Nick O’Connor, an evil theatre reviewer. Princess Aurora here, sleeps for 130 years, before the theatre is rediscovered by a local teacher and a group of children researching the building. It is an excellent insight into the history of the building for those who aren’t aware of its past.

This year Gary Bridgens is back, this time as director as well as Queen Tryphosa. His style is perfect for the intimate theatre space. He gives the feeling he is talking to you personally and quickly creates the friendly rapport required for a fantastic family friendly show. Another link back to the history of the theatre is in the names which includes King Samuel, Ross Dean, who is constantly under the shadow of Queen Tryphosa. Freya Mawhinney returns, this year as Dolly Partridge, here she demonstrates her fantastic vocal talent and is certainly one to watch out for in the future. On the night I attended the evil Maleficent didn’t receive the required boos, perhaps it didn’t feel right for an audience with theatre reviewers to boo! Maleficent’s son, Conor Hinds, is the wannabe actor who also plays Sleeping Beauty’s hero Hercules, resulting in great comedy moments when they both need to be on stage at the same time. Princess Aurora, Victoria West, brings innocence to the role. Finally, The Young Company, of which there are three teams, bring an added sparkle to the proceedings.

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The music as ever is superb as they change the lyrics to fit the story, with my favourite being Dolly Parton’s ‘Jolene’ changed to ‘I’m Mean’ sung by Maleficent.

Where else could you get a panto that is full of history, laughs, music, Gary Bridgens and Tunnocks Teacakes. The Georgian Theatre Royal at Richmond of course.