Well, it’s Panto time again……. and Hastings Battleaxe accepts the free tickets, the wine and nibbles to go to the Press Night and review the Sleeping Beauty at the White Rock theatre. Philosopher came too – our experience was not enhanced by the cramped leg-room in our seats at the back of the Circle – not ideal for someone recovering from a hip operation.
Let’s get the Honey G issue out of the way first – I know she attracts extremes of emotion. Some may be avoiding the panto because of her, some may be going expressly to see her….. For Battleaxe readers who may not know who she is, she had a brief five seconds of fame on the X Factor a couple of years ago with her ‘tough girl’ rapper act. Our minds were pretty open because we had never actually seen her…
Anyway, for potential panto avoiders, honestly, it’s fine, take it from Battleaxe, you can still go along and enjoy the panto without fear – Honey G’s appearances are limited and incidental to the action. For those that love her, don’t worry, it’s fine as well. She does a fair bit of in-yer-face rapping – not that I could hear what she was on about – and sections of the audience joined in with her in enthusiastically. She plays ‘Fairy G’ wearing a very glittery silver track suit, pants hanging low rapper-style at the crotch. However, for all her street-wise rapper act, she spoke in a decidedly middle-class voice….. see note at the end of this post.
So, what of the rest? Well, if you want to give the kids a high-energy panto treat, they’ll love Sleeping Beauty – colourful stage sets, lots and lots of good old Hastings shouty audience participation, fireworky explosions, snow falling from the ceiling, shrieks of ‘Behind You!’, scary skeletons running through the audience, slapstick stuff involving food being thrown around and Hastings favourite Ben Watson sliding all over the stage, rousing renditions of well-known songs… the panto magic is all there.
The star of the show for us was the very good David McKechnie playing the wicked aunt Carabosse. He acted well, had an excellent scary stage presence and his every word was audible – even if he did remind me a bit of Penelope Keith in The Good Life.
Ben Watson strutted his stuff vibrantly as ever, but I felt that this year he did not have such good script material, story or stage business to work with as he did in Peter Pan last year. Also, this time he had to operate in tandem with the dame, played by Tim McArthur. Dames always tend to steal the show, but crikey, this one’s jokes were old…. Jodie Steele was very lively and cheerful as Beauty… there was a Prince….and then there was the penguin. You may well ask, a penguin in Sleeping Beauty? How did that fit into the story? Story? What story? Search me. Did it matter? Probably not…..the kids won’t care.
Sleeping Beauty used to be one of my favourites as a child – the wicked fairy – the forest growing up around the castle for 100 years, the sleeping household…. until enter the handsome prince. I don’t think the traditional story is now regarded as acceptable – man assaults sleeping girl without her consent etc etc…. Anyway, this panto scarcely had a story, traditional or otherwise. A spinning wheel did appear at one point, Beauty indeed pricked her finger and fell asleep for about ten minutes on a bench outside her cottage…..
Of course it ended happily ever after. One thing – given we are no longer into traditional stories, why do the leading characters still pair off girl/boy to produce the happy ending? Even poor Carabosse had to turn into a female penguin to pair off with the boy penguin. And as for Ben Watson and Honey G….. I don’t think so, somehow. I don’t think even panto magic could manage that…
One last thing – why do these pantos last so long? We noticed the same thing last year. Small kids must get desperately fractious by the end. They could lop off half an hour from the second act without losing anything…. bit of screaming, bit of singing, then Ben reads out the birthdays while they change the scenery for the big finale…
I’ve pinched these pictures from the Hastings Observer review of the panto – it is better than mine…
So, to finish, a note on Honey G. It is not surprising she has a
middle-class voice. Anna Gilford attended the same exclusive school in
Buckinghamshire as Amal Clooney. She has a Masters Degree in Management
from University College London, and worked in recruitment