Phil Hopkins, Arts & Travel Editor

Cheeky Banter Gives Sleeping Beauty The Edge

A happy panto cast that has a good line in improvised banter will always shine brightly however mediocre the production.

But it would be wrong to unfairly criticise this year’s offering from the Carriageworks Theatre in Leeds, Sleeping Beauty, simply because it is staged in one of the so-called ‘Grade B’ theatres and doesn’t have 3d glasses and lots of expensive gizmos, just a hardworking company!

This is a cracking cast which, genuinely, had me laughing out loud, not only with its cheesy string of wise cracks, but because of its occasional improvisations and dubious double-entendres that the mums and dads loved.

Jez Edwards as Muddles, now in his 11th years at the venue, is a great anchor as the resident ‘silly lad’, whilst ‘baddie’ Carabosse, aka Gareth Joyner and his alter ego, drag queen cum dame, Myra DubBois, was brilliant.

A graduate of the pub and club circuit, he was totally at home not only with his script but, in true drag queen style, when anyone left the lib; he just went with them, the mark of a true pro who knows how to improvise.

Everyone knows the story Sleeping Beauty fairytale and few, if any, actually go to see this panto just for its story. As with so many venues they make an annual outing to pay homage to their local heroes: Billy Pearce at the Alhambra, Berwick Kaler at York and Jez Edwards at the Carriageworks.

James Meunier as Prince Benedict has a great voice and it was no surprise to read that he has had time in Sunset Boulevard and sung on Russell Watson’s UK tour.

His Princess Ariana sidekick, Katherine Picar, was suitably demure as the Prince’s coy love interest, moving on from Miss Saigon to get her panto wings in no lesser place than Leeds!

There was a baking scene, a ghost scene, lots of silly gags and lots of fun. Director Peter Dayson has pitched this production nicely and, with between two and three performances a day, six days a week, I think it is fair to say that the Carriageworks panto has its regulars quite happy to splash the cash for two hours of daft, family entertainment.

Sleeping Beauty
Carriageworks, Leeds
Until January 4th 2020