Review: Sleeping Beauty at Newcastle Theatre Royal

NOT much sleeping gets done in Sleeping Beauty. You need to know that, just in case the title stirred notions of magical and gentle slumber.

The cast of Sleeping Beauty at the Theatre Royal Newcastle
The cast of Sleeping Beauty at the Theatre Royal Newcastle

NOT much sleeping gets done in Sleeping Beauty. You need to know that, just in case the title stirred notions of magical and gentle slumber.

Running about, falling over, headlong assaults on the audience, buckets of goo, jokes about poo, loud music and relentless silliness will leave you breathless and speechless with laughter.

Sleeping? Not much of that. Beauty, in this shamefully disrespectful telling of a famous tale, gets barely a moment’s shut-eye.

The show opens in booming and portentous tones. This is a story, we learn, of an orphan abandoned outside a royal palace who grew up to be a boy with a really irritating laugh.

The audience is in stitches already in the certain knowledge of what’s to come.

That irritating laugh has become famous on Tyneside. It belongs to Danny Adams who, with dad Clive Webb, has been the not-so-secret weapon of the Theatre Royal panto for the past seven years.

This year Danny is Muddles, his dad King Clive and his “mum” Queen Rita (the North East’s many-costumed dame, Chris Hayward).

But it hardly matters. Part of the running joke is that Danny forgets his lines, forgets who he is and forgets the identity of the pretty girl he is supposed to love.

Whether it be Cinders, Maid Marion or this year’s Princess Beauty, the job is to be adored and abused in equal measure. Lauren Cocoracchio, as Beauty, gets stuffed into a suitcase – and I couldn’t work out how!

Under the guiding eye of North East panto supremo Michael Harrison, a successful company has been assembled to keep the Theatre Royal’s annual banker breaking records.

Danny and Clive are joined by Danny’s brother Michael Potts, who plays dumb to brilliant comic effect, and Steve Arnott as a Shakespearean baddie, this year, Lord Lucifer.

Ali James joins as The Good Fairy and Wendy Somerville as Carabosse, who put the curse on the princess, and all are ably supported by an ensemble of grown-up dancers and children from the local Marron Theatre Arts.

This year’s show looks fabulous. Laser lights are used to great effect and there are some special show-stoppers which I really shouldn’t tell you about, only to say that if you loved Chitty Chitty Bang Bang you’ll love this, and if you really hate spiders you should probably sit at the back!

Confidence on stage is a gilt-edged quality, and Danny and Clive have it in spades. They don’t so much entertain their audience as take them on. “Seven years and you still sit in the front rows,” says Danny with a wicked twinkle.

But it’s all good-humoured and everyone leaves intact, although whether the same can be said of the theatre’s expensive recent restoration remains to be seen. The fate of the £19,000 (alleged) curtains is a running gag.

Danny has slapstick down to a fine art but he’s equally talented linguistically. His song about the people and places of Newcastle, sung at mounting speed, is a hilarious highlight – as is his dig at the renaming of St James’ Park.

Danny and Clive raise the bar every year. Fortunately for us, they are doing next year’s panto, too, which will be Aladdin.

But what then? This pair, assuming they’re not going to be with us for ever and ever, will be a really, really tough act to follow.

 

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