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Panto Magic Comes To Lichfield - Oh Yes It Does
It's pantomime season - oh yes it is! And you will be hard pressed to find a better panto this Christmas than the fabulous Sleeping Beauty production which is pulling in the crowds at the Lichfield Garrick theatre in Staffordshire throughout the whole of December.
Rebecca Keatley stars as Fairy Moonbeam in Sleeping Beauty. Credit Pamela Raith Photography
All the traditional components that make the British pantomime such a unique experience are present in Sleeping Beauty - from the shouts of 'he's behind you' and the Dame played by a man, to the thigh-slapping Prince and the timeless conflict between good and evil fairies. But Sleeping Beauty, which sees the Garrick working in partnership with the specialist Evolution Pantomimes, seems to offer so much more.
The Prince (Lloyd Davies) awakens Sleeping Beauty (Jo-anne Stevens) with a kiss. Pamela Raith Photography
There is fabulous singing, in particular from Jo-anne Stevens as Sleeping Beauty, but also from the suitably dashing Lloyd Davies as the Prince, delightful Cbeebies presenter Rebecca Keatley as Fairy Moonbeam and West End actress Siani Owen who clearly revels in her role as the evil fairy Carabosse. And that is the essence of this thoroughly entertaining production - they are clearly all having a wonderful time.
Siani Owen suitably hams it up as evil fairy Carabosse. Pamela Raith Photography
In particular, children's entertainer Ben Thornton excels in his role as Jangles the Jester, not only engaging fully with children in the audience, but also with the adults. And he is admirably complemented by local lad Sam Rabone who makes his Lichfield debut as the pantomime dame, Nurse Nellie. They are at the heart of the comedy, not only with a slapstick scene in a bathroom that had you feeling a great deal of sympathy for them, but also a slick, hilarious sketch involving the numerous titles of magazines and newspapers that was clearly aimed at the grown-ups in the audience.
The impressive Ben Thornton as Jangles. Pamela Raith Photography
Sleeping Beauty, which also features comedy writer and children's author Ian Billings as the king, has plenty of other comic moments such as topical references to the likes of Donald Trump, Mary Berry and Ed Balls. Throw in the lavish sets, colourful costumes, lively music and one or two superb special effects and you clearly have a magical and thoroughly funny pantomime. In fact, you could argue that the true star of the show - as mentioned by a five-year-old boy brought on to the stage - is the amazing fire-breathing dragon that does far more than you expect it to.
The Prince (Lloyd Davies) with panto dame Nurse Nellie (Sam Rabone). Pamela Raith Photography
Sleeping Beauty continues to run at the Lichfield Garrick theatre until Saturday 31 December 2016, with a variety of school, matinee and evening performances, including for the first time, a signed performance on Wednesday 7 December at 1.30pm. Ticket prices start from £13 for children and £22 for adults and can be booked online or by calling the Box Office on 01543 412121.
The classroom scene with Ian Billings (centre) as the king. Pamela Raith Photography