You’d be hard pushed to find a more fitting song to choose for the opening number of a panto in 2021 than I’m Still Standing.
After the pandemic, the storms, and even the power cuts, there was the cast of Sleeping Beauty giving it laldy on stage at Inverurie Town Hall, all beaming smiles and upbeat lyrics, ready to bring magic back into our lives.
And by the end of the evening, it had certainly accomplished that mission, delivering a traditional, family, knockabout, all singing and dancing show that helped the whole audience forget the travails of the past two years.
Inverurie Panto has built a solid reputation for delivering a festive treat for its own community that can hold its own against professional offerings the length and breadth of the land.
Certainly, the script is a thing of beauty – and you have to applaud the bravado of naming the three good fairies Moderna, Astra and Zeneca as they take on the wicked fairy, Corona… double jabs and all.
The jokes range from as corny as a Christmas cracker – ah, the constipated mathematician is still around – to the slyly up-to-the-minute clever… “do you remember last year’s Christmas party?… No, we never had a Christmas party.”
Sleeping Beauty’s talented cast
Sleeping Beauty is blessed with a richly talented ensemble cast, drawn from the cream of the north-east’s community theatre talent.
The heavy lifting on the humour front is done by Alex Brown as the daft laddie Jaffa and, doubling up on dame duty, Gavin Davidson as Astra and Gavin McKay as Zeneca.
Alex is a gangly delight, all angular movements and rubber faces with nice comic timing that even makes the most “boom-tish” gag funny, despite this being the umpteenth time you’ve heard it.
The two Gavins steal the show as the squabbling fairies, gleefully breaking the fourth wall at the occasional mishap, making the ad libs as funny as the script.
All three of them working together is a delight to watch, especially in set pieces, such as the cream pie-making scene. “What could possibly go wrong?” Cut to next scene.
And their Shang-A-Lang singalong had the Inverurie audience belting out the lyrics in fine style.
Of course, a panto lives or falls by its baddy and Laura Pike made an excellent Corona, a vampish Cruela De Vil-esque fairy with one of the best evil laughs in Pantoland. And her take on Don’t Rain On My Parade morphed into a big Busby Berkley song and dance number, feather fans and all. It was one of the highlights of the show.
The other principals were near flawless too, with Laura Burnett winning over the audience as Moderna and not-really-a-baddie Gype – Corona’s sidekick – given a sweet edge by Kyra Rostron.
Joining in the panto magic
It must be said, the staging is a slick affair too, with great use made of flies for quick scene changes, while the music and dance drive things along nicely.
Particularly impressive was the use of contemporary dance to portray dashing Prince Daviot – the dashing Mikey Innes – cutting through the barrier of thorns to get to Princess Aurora – the charming Sarah Smith. Someone’s been paying attention to the Strictly professionals’ show openers.
The secret to any panto is getting the audience to suspend belief and join in the magic.
You know that has happened when everyone in the room – from under six to over 60 – is pointing at the wicked fairy and bellowing “love conquers all” to thwart her evil plans. After all, you can’t let Corona cancel Christmas.
As the curtain fell, we all went off into the night, hearts happier than when we went in and full of hope that love does, indeed, conquer all. Especially Corona.
For more information and tickets, go to inveruriepanto.com