Sleeping Beauty, Abbotts Ann

The Abbotts Ann Christmas pantomime is an eagerly-awaited seasonal delight, and director Andrew Hayter ensured that Sleeping Beauty did not disappoint the sell-out audiences this December.

The story is familiar, embellished with touches of Disney and plenty of very old, and hence very funny, jokes.

Three amiable and bickering fairies, played enthusiastically by Lisa Hillier, Hazel Carter and Mel Poole, attempt to cancel the curse of ‘death by spinning wheel’ laid upon baby Princess Aurora by disgruntled bad fairy Malevolent, played with magnificent vengefulness by Jenny Read.

They cannot prevent Aurora from pricking her finger on her eighteenth birthday as foretold, but modify the effect to a deep sleep, from which she can only be awoken by a kiss from her true love. The whole court falls into a magical slumber as well.

Happily, Aurora (Margaret Carroll) has already met her true love, Prince Rupert (Eloise Kestle) and they have shyly affirmed their love in a sweetly-sung rendition of ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love With You’.

Malevolent’s stupid helpers, played to vulgarly gormless perfection by Valerie Hayter and Shelley Rose, counter the good side-kicks of Aurora and Rupert.

Bosomy Nurse Nelly (Tim Abram), ‘nice but dim’ aristocrat Sampson (Tony Scrace) and jolly Presto the Jester (Stuart Lennon) provide incidental humour with gusto.

Musical interludes and audience participation add to the enjoyment.

Of course, eventually the prince battles through all adversity to kiss the sleeping princess – after obtaining her father’s permission!

This modern nicety necessitates the courtiers’ being awoken by the fairies before the princess herself revives - a slight departure from Charles Perrault’s original version, and in some past generations, parental approval might have been considered anathema to a blossoming youthful relationship!

But in ‘Panto Land’ all ends happily.

The occasional unexpected technical hitches were incorporated into the proceedings with Abbotts Ann Players’ usual aplomb, as were the almost imperceptible interventions by the ‘invisible’ cast member, prompt Julie Livingstone.

These only added to the fun of a traditional winter’s entertainment among friends.

The Players have, as always, worked extremely hard to present a colourful, proficient and entertaining production worthy of the village’s expectations.

Now we know for certain that Christmas is on the way!

Rosemary Groves