Durham Gala’s festive offering this year is Sleeping Beauty, a wonderful, family friendly pantomime packed full of great music and a brilliant cast. Written by Gary Kitching and Directed by Rachel Glover, this story of Briar Rose (Chloe Jane Millar) and her faithful, if somewhat mad, bff Sammie the Dog (Jude Nelson) gives us a few little twists, making it feel more for today without losing the essence of the original. That Briar’s companion is of the canine persuasion is a great way to stay neutral (except for any cat lovers) and makes the dynamic accessible for everyone. Not since Shrek has “True Love’s First Kiss” been shifted as far away from the original and it works perfectly.
We are led through the show by Hester the Jester (a pocket dynamo Lauren Waine) who gently moves the story forwards at a perfect pace ideal for young and old alike, whilst Josh Tarrier’s musical arrangements make full use of the Glee songbook, as well as some well-known pop standards, thus ensuring the whole audience can enjoy the song & dance routines.
As usual with Gala panto’s, we are treated to plenty of local references; King Archibald (Jacob Anderton) is of Durham-ion, Prince Chad (Ben Storey) is from Middles-boroughly and there is plenty of friendly ribbing for other villages in the area.
Of course, a panto wouldn’t be the same without a dame and a villain – cue Steve Byron as Nanny Fartoften and Zoe Lambert as the Evil Witch Karen (Karen now being such a cultural reference that everyone in the audience knew instantly of their own ‘Karens’). They seem to take it in turns to make use of the high flying wires, both seeming very comfortable being hilariously strung up high.
Add to all of this some flying evil badgers, wonderful village people dancers and a large helping of crazy ice cream madness and you’ve got the perfect recipe for a fun packed, laugh out loud start to the festive season.