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Sleeping Beauty

by on 19 December 2018

Flat-Pack Fun

Sleeping Beauty

By Ricky Coussins

The OSO Panto Players at OSO Arts Centre, Barnes until 22nd December

A review by Ian Nethersell
The Old Sorting Office is a popular and busy venue. The staging area is small with very limited wing space akin to that of ‘above pub’ theatres. This however, did not hamper the creation of the atmospheric and versatile setting of an outside garden/glade/forest defined and backlit by a very well-crafted tree which reached up to the ceiling, neatly dressed with some fake grass, a platform shelf and a branch which reached across the stage.

OSO Steve Weeks

Steve Weeks “OSO Barnes”

The script, written by Ricky Coussins, sat well in this environment and each worked with the other. This helped to create a feeling of congruence and honesty which allowed the audience to inhabit a place rather than look at a set.

The action opened with a plummy narrator played by Jonny Danciger, who also took on the demanding role of Musical Director. In this role he managed to put together some good singing with harmonies and even graced us with accompaniment on the accordion. The first scene also introduced us to the palace’s general handyman, Peter Pooey. Will Jarvis brought great energy and even pathos to this part, continually engaging with the audience, especially the row of young children sitting on the floor at the foot of the playing area.

Our dames of the piece were neatly played by two fairies, Flora and Dora, portrayed by past director Joel Coussins and Frankie Brickman. There was good chemistry, facial hair and interplay between them and they delivered the only nod to inuendo when Flora entered with a small wand, and it wasn’t that cold in the auditorium!

SleepBtyOSO 1

Our villain was Grumblebum, a wicked fairy, confidently portrayed by Hana Jarrah, who worked against the unrelenting barrage of boos and banter from our young audience, a task she seemed to relish in, just on the border of corpsing which also gave great fun. Her downtrodden side-kick, Jackass Grease-Smog was beautifully played in an understated way by Daisey Jones. It was easy to feel for this character through the way Daisey played it, using physical posturing and facial expression. In the spinning wheel scene we were treated to some wonderful visual comedy with the implement arriving in flat-pack form.

Daisey Jones doubled as Queen Camilia while King Charlie Chump was played by Joel Coussins who brought caring yet strong demeanour to the role.

SleepBtyOSO 2

Our Beauty and Prince of this script, Meghan and Harry, played by Alex Payne and Alex Hill respectively, worked well together and gave a beautiful rendition of the Little Shop of Horrors song ‘Somewhere That’s Green’, re-written as ‘Somewhere Near Barnes Green’ – a very nice touch.

SleepBtyOSO Promo 2

To protect Princess Meg from the evil machinations of Grumblebum she is squirrelled away for safe keeping with Flora and Dora until she reaches her 18th birthday and it is in this setting that Prince Harry stumbles and meets Meg. The unmade flat-pack is brought on and Grumblebum manages to coerce Princess Meg in to pricking her finger by picking up one of the strewn parts. Princess Meg falls asleep and Flora and Dora put a spell on the kingdom for all to sleep for a hundred years, or until Meg’s true love wakes her with a kiss, which of course is what duly happens.

Grumblebum is hit with a custard pie which sets Peter Pooey up to lead the company and audience in a chaotic re-written version of ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’. Now we all like it when the ‘wheels fall off’ and this number delivered chaos in spades with the whole company falling apart and Peter Pooey desperately trying to keep it together till he finally gave in. This led us in to the closing number of ‘All I Want for Christmas is You’, and with our required happy ending achieved, the evening came to a close.

Ultimately this is a well written, well directed panto aimed squarely at a family audience with younger children. It has plenty of ‘It’s behind you’ and ‘Oh no it isn’t’ jokes, custard pies and is engaging and fun. At just over an hour there is no opportunity for the youngsters to become bored. Plenty of Bottom references, up to date songs and children’s television character names allowed the younger audience to engage and the politically satirical – rather than innuendo-based – script allowed this staunch Liberal Democratic heartland to relish in gibes about both major parties, so a merry time should be had by all.

Ian Nethersell
December 2018

Photography by Caroline Silfverling

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