One of the most popular annual events in the Wirral calendar is the Floral Pavilion’s Christmas pantomime. They’ve set the bar high in recent years with some great productions and this year’s Sleeping Beauty – put together by UK Productions, who have a strong track record in the field – is another wonderfully entertaining show.
Heading up the cast is Vicky Entwistle (Coronation Street’s Janice Battersby) as the wicked fairy Carabosse. Her accomplished portrayal of the character’s hardfaced malevolence had the audience laughing and booing at the same time, her devilish persona bolstered by a marvelously menacing costume. In the traditional battle between good and evil she was up against another familiar television actress, with Sarah Jane Buckley (a Hollyoaks regular) delightful as the Good Fairy. Sleeping Beauty herself was engagingly played by Amy Thompson, who as some children nearby were heard to point out is an early morning children’s television presenter on Channel 5.
Much of the comedy came from the gormless but goodhearted Silly Billy (the experienced comic actor Adam Moss) and Charles Burden’s riotous pantomime dame performance as Nanny Glucose. Moss had bags of energy and was very good with the two children invited up on stage from the audience. Burden was hilarious; astonishingly, he’s apparently been appearing in pantomimes for 49 years. There were plenty of ‘local’ jokes, including several directed at the Morrisons supermarket just across the road from the theatre (‘We like Morrisons – it keeps the riffraff out of Marks and Spencers’). The audience lapped these up, though overall the reaction was perhaps a little muted – maybe some more audience participation (of the ‘He’s behind you’ variety) would have helped. Another pantomime veteran is Marcus Knibbs, whose fine performance as the King was enlivened by some expertly executed rap numbers. The Prince was confidently played by Richard Meek, fresh from his recent appearance in a West End production of The Rocky Horror Show.
One of the most appealing aspects of Floral Pavilion pantomimes is the opportunity that is given to local talent, in this case a large group of teenage students and younger children from the Liverpool Theatre School and Merseyside Dance and Drama Centre. There were some really impressive dance routines, as well as a stream of well known songs, including contemporary hits like Uptown Funk and Gangnam Style. Combine all this with colourful sets and costumes – and very reasonably priced tickets – and you have a perfect festive treat.
Roll on next year’s Cinderella!
**** Great family entertainment – and excellent value for money
Sleeping Beauty continues at the Floral Pavilion, New Brighton until 3 January 2016. For more information, click HERE.