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Insights | Our Young Blogger Reviews Sleeping Beauty

By Kieran Wyatt

I remember being about ten years old stuck on a hot, sticky coach stuffed with Girl Guides, making my way to The Grand Theatre, Blackpool. My excitement bubbled into a voice that in no estimation could be described as ‘indoor’. But we weren’t indoors – we were in a coach taking us to a haven of sweetie throwing and jokes thrown right over our heads.

Maybe the panto we were all so excited to see was Peter Pan with Barney Harwood, but it so easily could have been Cinderella with a starring role for a long forgotten children’s TV presenter, Jennifer Pringle or Naomi Wilkinson from Five’s Milkshake, perhaps. Eight years later, last Friday night, I went to The Grand Theatre with my friend Pip, holding in my hands the same excitement prevalent in my eight year old self. The Grand’s panto this year is the brilliant Sleeping Beauty which promises only to get better as its long yuletide run continues.

Underneath it all he was laughing, on the surface his seventeen year old mug was only letting out a slight smile. Contrastingly, the 2nd Freckleton Rainbows and Brownies wore the boos and corny laughs readily on their sleeves. Sitting in the dress circle, directly beneath a box stuffed with purple swords and wand waving kids, I sat and enjoyed the first pantomime of the season.

Friday night saw a packed stalls and dress circle at The Grand Theatre; as a consequence Sleeping Beauty’s opening night was uplifted and given a substantial jolt of energy by the yelps and hello Billies of a gleeful audience. At the end of the day a pantomime hinges on two things – the audience and the players. Thankfully The Grand’s panto this year features a stellar class, the biggest draw being Dance Mums’ Jennifer Ellison who plays the big baddie, Carrabose. Everybody’s performance is great; however, Ellison stands out as a genuinely sinister witch with beautifully smoothed yet slightly croaked elocution, perfect for the role.

Regulars Steve Royle and Hayley Kay return, Kay in particular honing her act from last year as The Good Fairy and bringing a light rhyming touch to the whole parade. Royle returns to bring to the Grand his usual funny fare, juggling knowingly bad jokes and gentle jibes at the audience. Although the whole event is rather predictable, there is something joyous is yelling out the punch line to a cringe worthy joke.

A great atmosphere poured through the still beautiful theatre on the long Friday night. There is always a fat, shimmering juxtaposition between the glitz and purple streams of panto merch and the curved, bronzed architecture of The Grand. The atmosphere of The Grand during a panto night is one of my favourite things about the season. Sleeping Beauty holds everything you would expect in a traditional pantomime but also some spectacular special FX. When used sporadically and economically – like in this sparkling production – these sparks and screens of fiery dragons, are very effective.

The panto reached half time and the house lights went up. I looked to my left at the gang of bouncing Brownies and Rainbows. To my immediate left an elderly couple were holding hands, still laughing at Royle’s last piece of word play. There was a great mix of an audience on Friday night. For me this was the moment where I truly began to enjoy the show, seeing the reactions of small children, and big kids alike solidified for me the idea that panto is for everyone.

Sleeping Beauty is playing at The Grand Theatre from now until the 4th January.

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