It’s only CBeebie’s very own Chris Jarvis

The atmosphere was rocking as I walked into Richmond Theatre for this year’s pantomine, Sleeping Beauty.

Music was pumping, children were giddy with excitement and I didn’t actually feel like an oddball on my own when I realised there were several adults with no children in tow – simply there to lap up the panto for its Christmas frivolity alone.

Once the production got started, the high energy and entertainment didn’t falter for the entire 2 hours 30 minutes.
The story of Sleeping Beauty as we all know it, was retold, but with pink glitter and gags aplenty.

Beauty (Lauren Hood) the sweet princess, was cursed as a baby by the evil fairy, Carabosse, played by Maureen Lipman. Lipman is one of our national treasures who has appeared in the likes of Educating Rita and Doctor Who, as well as being well known as Beattie in the BT ads. Several references are made to her career throughout and for those who are drawn to this year’s show due to her name, they won’t be disappointed.

As she stormed on to stage, sneering at the audience, black cape swishing, she was met with the obligatory hisses and boos, which she played up to brilliantly. She brings a certain edginess to the wicked fairy’s role. And has an air of the bad, but cool villain.

Chester, the court jester and Beauty’s adopted brother, is played by Chris Jarvis who has become something of a Richmond panto household name, this being his third year. And it’s no surprise he keeps being asked to return, as he really is fantastic. I’ve seen him each year, and he just gets better and better.

He directed this year’s production and his experience is evident – we all know him as a CBeebies stalwart, but he’s written many pantomines for TV.

Chester provides continual cheeky banter with the crowd, and Richmond relevant gags are sprinkled throughout. References to the Petersham roadworks and the Mortlake Massive get the adults chortling, while contemporary references to the likes of Honey G have the children giggling.

You’ve got to love all that singing and dancing

And of course, a panto would not be the great British tradition that it is, without a hilarious Dame. This year, Nursie is played by Matt Rixon, who returns after the great success of his Ugly Sisters act alongside his father, Matthew Kelly, in last year’s Cinderella.

But no need to worry whether or not Matt can go it alone, as he brings every bit of Dame-esque humour and warmth to his role, that a panto needs.

His costumes are fantastical, with one such delight being pink wellies, gold spangly leggings, a turret of pink candy floss hair, and an outlandish dress covered in pom poms. General garish loveliness.

In fact, all the costumes are wonderful, from Carabosse’s black glittering capes and head piece to the mass of pink satin and glitter in the magical wedding finale.

I was mesmerised by Katherine Iles’ choreography throughout. The dancers’ energy and commitment is transfixing – the dance routines are varied and everything is highly tuned and to the upmost standard.

There are a couple of cheesy love ballads by the likes of James Arthur and Ed Sheeran, to give the music numbers a contemporary feel. These are suitably power-sung by Beauty and her Prince, Dan Partridge. But there are also plenty of fun numbers like the Time Warp, getting the older generations in the theatre jiggling in their seats.

All in all, I left feeling completely uplifted and festive as I ventured back out into the Richmond night. For a night of complete fun and feel good factor, it’s a must this Christmas for kids of all ages.

Sleeping Beauty runs until 8th January 2015 at Richmond Theatre.

Follow: