As traditional as the presents you politely receive and will regift as soon as you can, the Mercury Theatre pantomime gets the festive season off to a terrific start!
Enjoying record-breaking sales this year, Sleeping Beauty is given a contemporary twist yet loses nothing at the heart of the story and is, thankfully, once again led by the legendary partnering of Antony Stuart Hicks and Dale Superville. From the moment they walk on stage to cheers, the audience knows they’re in for a fun show! The delight of each Mercury Panto is that they are rooted in the local community and don’t rely on low-grade “celebrities” to sell tickets; they have been built with hard work and love.
Most of us are grateful not to be the victims of Antony Stuart-Hick’s Dame Maris Piper, but it’s cleverly judged, and the best Dame in the business gets it spectacularly right! One day, she will marry the man in the audience! Superville is adorable and pitch-perfect cheeky as her son Spud Piper; every child and adult connects with him immediately.
They don’t overwhelm the show; however, this is a terrific ensemble. Funky Fairy Fizz Sasha Latoya is a delight, with a superb singing voice, as is Philip Catchpole as Prince Istuna. In fact, the singing is one of the strongest elements in this show. Add Jaimie Pruden as a fantastic Carabosse and Alexandra Barredo belting out her numbers as Luna. Vocally, this is one of the strongest Mercury pantomimes ever.
Congratulations to Musical Director Paul Herbert. For some reason, the Piper family also have a pet penguin (A mutant penguin, as Dame Maris calls him), and Matthew Forbes is wonderfully scene-stealing!
All the elements of a traditional panto are there, and director Ryan McBryde has no fear employing them; it’s what we want and get in slosh spades!
If I’m going to be hyper-critical, some of the set pieces don’t feel as spectacular as in previous years, but the creative team fill the stage with colour and joy, and it’s certainly fast-moving! The costume and wardrobe department have done their usual excellent job, and the production will be remembered forever by the young children in the audience.
You don’t need my encouragement to see it; book it before it totally sells out!
Paul T. Davies