Sleeping Beauty - Bournemouth Pavilion

December 2012

Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of panto where anything is possible.  You get all the usual stuff of course:  the timeless struggle between good and evil, spells that put a beautiful princess to sleep for 100 years and the kiss from a handsome prince that wakes her again. But we sort of expect that.

I’ve never seen an incredible shrinking Dame before though. Fresh from the Australian jungle where he lived on beans, rice and creepy-crawlies, Colin Baker has dropped so many dress sizes that his character - originally Nurse Nelly  (pictured left in a pre-bushtucker press shot)  has morphed into Nanny Nelly, an altogether trimmer individual who arrived on stage with corks on her hat and what sounded like a bad dose of jungle fever.

 Poor Colin - once best known as the sixth Doctor Who -  croaked his way gamely through the show and had to wait until well into the second act before his famous Tardis put in an appearance, cunningly re-cast in the style of the I’m A Celebrity ‘Dunny’.

With CBeebies favourite Chris Jarvis both directing and playing the show’s fall-guy Happy Harry; Asa Elliott, the singing hunk from ITV’s Benidorm as the Prince and the inimitable Su Pollard, still memorable from Hi-De-Hi, as the evil fairy Carabosse, there were countless telly references. Somehow the traditional Sleeping Beauty story was woven into a patchwork of slapstick fun and jokes that took in a everything from local topics to a brief but inevitable gangnam style routine. 

Kate Weston plays the good fairy with gusto, Michael Chance is the King and there are some excellent dance routines from the Stage Door School of Dance and Drama. 

But there are problems. Playing to a half empty theatre ( and that’s being generous) the cast struggled to get a real rapport going, valiantly battling on and scoring some notable comedic triumphs. 

The audience loved it but if they can attract enough people to build a real atmosphere it could be so much better. As the show reached its happy-ever-after conclusion Chris Jarvis surveyed the audience and, probably only half-joking, muttered: “It would probably have been cheaper to give you all a video.”

This show has real potential and the cast know it.  Let’s hope its audiences build to the point where that can be realised. 

*Sleeping Beauty plays Bournemouth Pavilion until Sunday January 6. 

© Jeremy Miles 2022