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REVIEW: Sleeping Beauty is a glittering return of panto to the Granite City

The Granite City’s first panto of the season is here and it’s a thing of beauty – oh, yes it is.

Sleeping Beauty at Aberdeen Arts Centre marks a joyful return of the festive tradition after the pandemic took the Christmas sparkle out of theatres last year.

And this production from TaleGate Theatre has all the ingredients we missed so much – plenty of laughs, great songs, dance numbers and just a sense of silliness, guaranteed to put a smile on your face.

All of that, plus some rather swish effects, from pyros to fog machines – and even a dragon. Really… right there on the arts centre stage.

Sleeping Beauty brings back the magic of panto.

Of course, the lynchpin to any panto is its dame and the audience is in extremely safe hands with Philip Napier as Queenie, projecting a warmth and sense of fun as soon as he steps on to the stage.

Sleeping Beauty’s excellent hissable baddy

He keeps the panto moving along at a brisk pace, with a string of one-liners, complete with a “boom-boom-tish”, that had the audience laughing – even the corny ones some of us remember from going to the panto as a kid.

Listen out for the Bonnie Tyler’s sat nav gag. It’s a belter.

Credit to Philip for his quick-change skills. He seems to step off the stage in one outrageous costume then step back on in another – including a fully-laden table of food.

He’s aided and abetted by a talented and enthusiastic principal cast, including Xander Gordon whose Prince Valentine is a mash-up of hero and daft laddie, Saffron Gillies as the sweet Princess Aurora, and Sarah Ord as Fairy Fabulous who adds a magic touch with her comic timing.

Megan Wright is a brilliant baddy as Molevela.

Almost stealing the show, though, is Megan Wright as an excellently hissable baddy. That said, her Molevela is more misunderstood than malevolent. All this fuss could have been avoided if someone had just invited her to a couple of parties.

The cast has a great rapport with their audience, getting them cheering and booing along nicely, with enthusiastic shouts of “he’s behind you” and plenty of “oh no you’re nots”.

Feels so good to have panto back

They also run through a panoply of song and dance numbers with tracks from the Greatest Showman, Wham, Matilda and even a hoot of a rap scene, with enthusiasm and gusto.

One highlight, though, is when the five of them tackle the classic panto slapstick number, the 12 Days Of Christmas. The frantic running around on stage with unlikely props ranging from smelly socks to loo rolls is just a caper and a delight for it.

Sleeping Beauty
Philip Napier as Queenie in Sleeping Beauty.

And if Philip’s fall into the wings was unrehearsed, they should keep it in for the rest of the run. Comedy gold.

They should also keep in something I’ve not seen in panto for years, throwing sweeties into the audience, although played for comic effect, with super-soakers and all. I was peeved, however, that the bag of Quavers didn’t come my way.

However, it would be churlish to be disappointed at missing out on a savoury snack after being served a night of great, knockabout, singalong, shout-out fun.

Sleeping Beauty has woken from her slumbers and so has panto. It feels so good to have the magic back.

Sleeping Beauty
Aberdeen Arts Centre delivered a beauty of a panto. Photos by Ciro Art Studio.

How to book tickets to see Aberdeen Art Centre’s Sleeping Beauty panto

Don’t miss TaleGate Theatre Productions’ Sleeping Beauty panto at Aberdeen Arts Centre from November 28 to December 24.

Tickets can be purchased here.

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