* Prices may differ from that shown
We were lucky enough to be given tickets for the pantomime at the Theatre Royal Plymouth for Christmas.
The Theatre Royal is in the centre of Plymouth, with plenty of car-parking nearby. The theatre has two performance areas, the main one and the Drum. It's a vibrant and lively theatre, which claims to be the largest and best attended regional producing theatre in the UK.
This year's pantomime is 'Sleeping Beauty', featuring Joe Pasquale and Ceri Dupree. Pasquale is a comedian, best known for his squeaky voice and probably for winning 'I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out Here!' in 2004. Dupree is a well-known female impersonator, who has had his own show on ITV1.
We were right at the back in the top circle, which if far away, gave us a great view down to the stage. I had to swap seats with my son as a rather large man was sitting in front of him, but behind another child he had a perfect view. There were booster seats available, but I hadn't spotted them on the way in.
Our tickets seemed to have cost £19 per person (the downside of giving tickets as pressies is that the cost is written on them!) Obviously prices vary according to position of seats, as with any theatre, and you can find concessions, group discounts and the like when buying. The Theatre Royal sells tickets online as well as at its box-office: I've previously bought tickets to their shows online and found their service prompt and straightforward.
'Sleeping Beauty' is such a well-known fairytale I won't bore you by explaining the basic story. The pantomime followed the usual elements of the tale, with some additions to work in extra characters and scenes.
The production began excitingly: early scenes with the Wicked Fairy flying about the stage particularly spectacular. The next numbers with Beauty and the Prince were well-put together and entertaining, but the show didn't really start to get into high gear until Pasquale took to the stage as Muddles.
I was fully expecting him to be annoying, but his stage persona is endearing and won me over. There was a brief flirtation with the song he's best-known for: "I know a song that'll get on your nerves, get on your nerves, get on your nerves" but it was a more of a nod to his past than anything and wasn't a recurrent joke in this production. (The only problem of suspension of disbelief I had was that according to the story-line he was the same age as the Princess! You might argue that he's supposed to be a servant/friend so maybe hard-work has aged him, but they definitely been over-working him in that case! Hehe). But that's just nit-picking - Pasquale was the core of the show.
Ceri Dupree played Muddles's mother, Lady Passionella, and made a fantastic Dame, as you can imagine. He was a great asset to the show and he & Pasquale stole the stage whenever they appeared. Dupree's costume changes were frequent, amazing and it was hard to credit just how quickly he would reappear in some other mindboggling creation. If you've ever seen the film of "Priscilla Queen of the Desert", some of his costumes wouldn't have looked out of place - or indeed beat them in sheer outrageousness. His goldfish bowl (yes, really) outfit is particularly memorable. It's a considerable feat I should think to perform in the heels he does with the amazing head-dresses as well. During the production he also had opportunities to impersonate various famous divas, like Tina Turner, and his adoption of their mannerisms as well as looks was spot-on.
Some of the humour in the show, both from Pasquale and Dupree, is a bit rude but goes over the children's heads. The audience participates in the show with the traditional cheers and boos, and Pasquale sometimes interacts with women especially in the first row.
The third star of the show for me was the 3D (sorry, other performers!). We'd been given 3D glasses on the way to our seats, and at several points in the performance were asked to put on our magic glasses. (One of the less good aspects of the theatre trip was that some of the 3D glasses being given out had an arm broken off: they're collected back at the end of shows and clearly previous audiences had been less than careful with them. We chose some good pairs, but there were some dodgy looking ones). The 3D was done wonderfully well, making us jump in our seats. It was CGI shown on a large screen with which Pasquale in particular would interact. Sometimes it was a little repetitive and you knew what was coming, such as when you'd see a 3D beastie and there'd be a pause and you knew it was going to "leap" at you, but it was well-executed. Some of it did feel like you could reach out and touch it - or indeed that it would reach out and touch you!
Towards the end of the show Pasquale gets some children from the audience up on stage and has a sing-along with them, which he does with aplomb. At our show, we discovered that guinea pigs oink and that gogs go woof. It was very funny, but also treated the children kindly.
The finale has the Princess getting her Prince and the Wicked Fairy getting rehabilated and all being happily ever after, as you'd expect. I felt it was a bit of a shame for the actress playing the Wicked Fairy that she had a costume change that late in the production, as people didn't necessarily twig quickly enough who she was in the final bows.
The panto ran for about 2 hours with an intermission.
This version of 'Sleeping Beauty' was a great show, with high production values and a lot of spectacle. I'd recommend it.
**Things to buy**
- Small pots of ice-cream were £2.50. Buying 3 pots of jellybeans, icecreams and ribena cartons set me back the best part of £20. Eek!
- I didn't buy a programme, as in my experience these cost around a tenner and end up cluttering up your house!
- The merchandise they were selling in the foyer was mostly light-up butterflies and flashing toys, which seemed to have nothing to do with the pantomime itself. I have to say, these were really very annoying during the show (I had someone in front who was waving one around at the highest frequency of flash, and it was very distracting, especially during the 3D sections of the pantomime). These horrible things ranged in price from £4 to £10.