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 Connecting professional and amateur theatre in Newbury, West Berkshire and beyond

Oxford Playhouse - Sleeping Beauty

5th December 2008 to 18th January 2009.

From the Newbury Weekly News.

It's all good festive fun

Only Beauty falls asleep at Peter Duncan's fast-paced production

Sleeping Beauty, at the Oxford Playhouse, until January 18

Having previously directed Dick Whittington and Aladdin, former Blue Peter presenter Peter Duncan has returned to the Oxford Playhouse with his own version of Sleeping Beauty.

The show is slick and fast-paced, with the traditional mix of corny gags and familiar routines. The audience is given instructions by the pantomime dame (Stephen Aintree) to "all work together to keep the princess safe" which creates a wonderful complicity as children side with the goodies against a crabby witch.

RRichard Stacey, an Oxford-based actor with an engaging stage presence, is back in the city's panto. Riveting in recent plays from the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, Stacey here plays a Shakespeare-quoting king with a secret desire to sing Queen anthems. He relishes lines like: "if music be the food of love, rock on". It is worth the ticket price alone to see him in his superhero outfit opposite his chic queen, played by Abi Finley. She was a semi-finalist in How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?, has a great voice and a cheeky stage presence. She is a talent to follow.

Beauty (Lois Urwin) makes a cute heroine for the tennis-playing prince Raphael of Nadalia (Joseph Attenborough), a haughty dragon-slayer. Most of the jokes go to court jester Miffins (Robin Armstrong), a lad destined never to get the girl. The audience is sent away happy with the customary Playhouse singalong, boys belting out "boots and cats" and girls going "whoop, whoop, whoop, chica, chica, chica".

My co-reviewer, Joe, found Sleeping Beauty "funny, fun and interactive". He thought that the witch, Carmella Crabstick (Carrie Ellis) was "an Anne Robinson lookalike". The Dame (Stephen Aintree) is his favourite character because "it is funny that he is a man dressed up in women's clothes". Nevertheless, for Joe, this year's Dame is not as original or as funny as last year's. Joe says that "all the songs are good, and the costumes are brilliant." The dragon is "especially good" because "it isn't the old two people in a suit, like the horse". He believes that "Sleeping Beauty is very funny because it is interactive."

Joe awards the production nine out of 10.


There is a review in The Stage: "Oxford Playhouse keeps up its long-standing tradition of well-crafted, warm-hearted pantomimes, with this cracking Sleeping Beauty... a riot of the very best kind" - Andrew Blades.

This is from the Oxford Mail: "it’s just FANTASTIC. Terrific. Wonderful. Laugh-out loud funny... it’s probably the best night out of the year" - Jeremy Smith.