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“Sleeping Beauty”

In my view, Venue 360 has proved to be a superb new performance space for Griffins.  A huge undertaking – but very worthwhile.  The conference centre was re-modelled as a theatre, with a good-sized stage, and excellent seating with a rake.  The theatre is stylish, spacious, comfortable and well-appointed – I thought it was a winner and hope it was successful revenue–wise for both Griffins and the venue.

Technically it was also a triumph with excellent lighting designed by Dave Houghton (who also oversaw the transformation), mostly good sound from Graham Elliott, Duncan Askew and their team – plus a well-conceived set from Gary Nash and his team.  I loved Ghasthag’s lair and her throne – stunning.

Richard Lovelock always writes a good panto – traditional, but with lots of fun and audience participation – which is what it’s all about, and the cast gave it their all.

Costumes were excellent throughout – they were colourful and looked fresh and exciting.  I particularly liked the junior chorus red dresses, the green and silver adult chorus dresses, the blue dresses for the Simple Simon number, along with Nanny’s gold fringed number and her finale costume.  Very well chosen.

A lively opening set the scene – and I liked the contrasts between the characters such as the King and Lord Rupert, although each principal had really given thought to their character, and this gave the production the contrasts and dimensions that I always love to see.  Good directorial decisions made this both traditional but interesting and great fun.

There were some super lighting effects – particularly in the hero number, also the use of back spots on a dappled background for the princess when she sang, and the lovely multi-coloured lighting in many of the numbers, which created a good atmosphere, and additional interest.

Musically very sound, although there were some numbers that were a little too long .  I particularly liked the Fairies song – tight harmonies and the syncopated section was also very good.

The junior chorus (Team Ariel on the night I attended) were very well-drilled, and very cute, always a plus to see young performers enjoying themselves and really buying in to the songs and choreography.  I am sure Team Persil were just as good, a pity I can’t always see everyone!

The adult chorus all performed very well, and looked as if they were enjoying themselves – which always helps an audience enjoy it more too.

I liked the three fairies, Cheryl Evans, Deborah Cheshire and Hannah Synan-Jones – the diversity of their costumes and the quirkiness of Deborah in particular made them a very interesting and fun trio, with lots of small items of detail that lifted them away from being ‘just’ fairies.

Lorna McCarthy as Ghasthag the baddie – as always gave us someone we loved to boo – very strong and evil, a good performance.  

I liked the pairing of Paul Rogers and Hannah Meller as the king and queen, a good relationship, with lots of innuendo and fun.

Kirsty Day was a charming Princess, good vocally and well-matched by Juliet Llewellyn-West as the Prince.  They achieved some good harmonies in their duet, and looked good together.

I thought Steve Peters created a very foppish Lord Rupert – who was a good foil to the other comedy characters.

Matt Collins was a lively and engaging Simple Simon – he got the audience going and I liked his portrayal.

Richard Lovelock as Nanny was a traditional Dame, but loads of energy and again innuendo made her a very interesting and dynamic character.

These three created a good comedy trio, and the slapstick scene worked really well – along with all the other exchanges between the three.

So, all in all a super, fun-laden production, good technically, in a great new venue – a thoroughly enjoyable evening.


“SLEEPING BEAUTY” review date: 14th Jan 2015

Venue 360, LUTON

Director: Dee Lovelock assisted by Luke Murphy

MD: Charlotte Tabert

Choreographer: Jackie Houghton assisted by Kerry Collins


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