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It’s show time!

16th December 2023

Whether you’re a regular pantomime attendee, or you’re a newbie to the scene (pun intended!) then you really don’t want to miss this one, says Rachel Bowles

Sleeping Beauty The Fairy’s Tale at Norwich Theatre is a feast for all the senses and will have you clapping and singing along, shouting to the characters in the traditional panto audience role, and bedazzled by the glittery costumes and set designs (triple the amount of glitter from last year according to director Chris Cuming!)

© Richard Jarmy Photography

This classic story has been re-mixed to bring it bang up to date with references to this year’s Barbie movie, a generation style conveyer belt scene, and The Princess adorning her bedroom walls with poster pin ups of her ‘Prince-to-be’ in modern ‘typical teenager’ conduct.

Returning for his 23rd year here, Richard Gauntlett, pictured, holds centre stage, with the audience captive in his role as The Queen (dame). His comedy partner Joe Tracini (also part of the Norwich Theatre furniture and played ‘Jack’ in the Beanstalk last year) headlines as The Good Fairy and has been let loose this year to write the story (with additions from Gauntlett) and didn’t he do well – oh yes he did! 

© Richard Jarmy Photography

These two have such a unique partnership on stage, including a slapstick DIY scene reminiscent of the Chuckle Brothers, and it means other characters need to find their place on the stage. No need to worry with the casting though, as Beverley Callard (who you may recognise from Coronation Street) is a formidable Evil Fairy and Millie O’Connell stars as a sassy Princess, both belting out their solo songs with ease. Later in the story enters The Prince (Karl Queensborough), and all these headlining acts come together to show a solid and convincing front. 

Beverley Callard as The Evil Fairy © Richard Jarmy Photography

No performance is complete without the accompanying music, and Norwich Theatre executes this so well with their professional band. We loved singing along to modern but cleverly selected songs for various high energy scenes including Dua Lipa’s ‘Dance The Night’ and Cindy Lauper’s ‘Girls Just Want To Have Fun.’ 

In fact, the whole audience participation (a must for any panto experience), was great fun and the children were absolutely loving the cheers and boos along the way. The quick-witted gags either engaged them, or alternatively went swiftly over their heads, but had the adults chuckling away. There were subtle nods to the local area and a canary flying around, ensuring the audience felt connected to what was happening on stage.

© Richard Jarmy Photography

All in all, this is a fantastic family production which seems to improve year on year. Hats off to the whole team, including Steven Crocker for steering the ship as producer, and Kirsteen Wythe for the costumes that had us all mesmerised from the start, particularly Gauntlett’s lavish Queen attire. A fantastic group of talented creatives? Oh yes they are!

Don’t hesitate to book your tickets as they are selling quickly. Dates are available up until 7th January, making this a potentially great Christmas present to visit as a family. Head over to their website for booking and prices.

© Richard Jarmy Photography

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