Reviewed by Jenny Bray
It just wouldn’t be the run up to Christmas without going to see a pantomime and the Sheffield pantomime is one of the best I’ve been to as it’s really well produced and lots of fun.
This year’s offering is Sleeping Beauty, written by Paul Hendy and with a bit of a Sheffield twist to it. Damian William’s has been in the Sheffield pantomime for the last 14 years and is arguably the star of the show with his outrageous outfits and gags as the dame; Nurse Nellie.
I’ve been to the Sheffield Lyceum pantomime before so had a good idea of what to expect. Therefore, once my review tickets were confirmed I managed to purchase two additional tickets so that I could take all three of my children. This is the first year that they’ve all been really excited about it (and that I thought my youngest, who is now 7, would actually last without getting too sleepy!). It was nice to see lots of children of all ages in the audience, especially enjoying the audience participation and generally having fun throughout the performance, when fun seems to be in slightly short supply still these days in general during these covid struck times. I love the way that pantomimes introduce children to theatre.
The story is set in a special land where the Princess Caroline (Hannah Everest) is to grow up. Her best friend is Jangles (Ben Thornton), who in true audience participation style, requests a special greeting from the audience every time he comes on stage. Janine Duvitski from Benidorm plays Fairy Moonbeam, protecting Princess Caroline whenever possible and acting as narrator between some of the scenes. Dominic Sibanda played a very well spoken Prince, who manages to evade Nurse Nellie’s advances while seeking out Princess Caroline. Carabosse (Lucas Rush) is the boo inducing evil villain, with an amazing outfit. I was very impressed with his ability to strut in high heeled boots!
Worthy of mention were the incredible fire skills and pyrotechnics of the dragon keepers, Josh and Kris of Two Cheeky Monkeys. They had many of the audience gasping with their fire skills. One of my children asked whether they were playing with real fire as they didn’t think real fire would be allowed on the stage! (Yes – it was definitely real fire!)
As a widow, Nurse Nellie is on the hunt for a new man… watch out audience and be prepared to be picked on if you are a male in one of the front rows. Also watch out for her later in the show, when she has an amusing special solo scene depicting one of her dreams. She has several amazingly outrageous outfits throughout the show. I had two favourites, one being as a knight and the other which was actually fairly simple as a spy, although I did particularly like her teddy placement and use of rubber gloves in other outfits too! They also link in with suitably bright and garish costumes for the rest of the cast. It is a pantomime after all!
There are several well known songs sung by the cast during the storyline. Apparently Princess Caroline may be quite sweet and Carabosse likes to play with hell fire and be meanest of all.
If you’ve been to the Sheffield pantomime before then you’ll be aware that there are a few scenes that are recreated each year. Without giving too much of it away; this year was no different and included the wheelbarrow of puns, linked to musicals this year and a scene involving singing ‘Always look on the bright side of life’.
There were a few small hiccups during the show, but the nature of it being panto meant they were mainly easily covered and were well ad libbed, mainly with quirky responses by Damian as Nurse Nellie who is a polished panto dame.
The Lyceum theatre in Sheffield is in the town centre. It is quite easy to get to. The local Q park still allows your first hour of parking free if you get a ticket from the theatre staff. Once inside the theatre there is a drinks bar and a snack/treats bar to purchase things from before the show or during the interval. All staff have reverted back to wearing masks as must visitors.
The stage setting was striking. It moved from the castle to a school to different rooms with ease despite each change involving huge set moves. I particularly liked both the dragon Cabosse entered on but also the drama that came with his entrance on it.
The jokes are designed to suit all ages, with some aimed specifically at the older ones of us in the audience rather than just for the children. Audience participation was actively encouraged throughout and kept everyone engaged and entwined in the story. The show was definitely tailored to Sheffield. There were several references to areas of Sheffield. There were also several occasions when nearby areas were wittily put down!
This show starts at the slightly earlier time of 7pm, which is good for the younger audience. It was also lively and interactive the whole time so kept my children engaged and shouting along, even though I was concerned at taking them on a school night. They have shows on at several different times and also aim for inclusivity by having a relaxed show, signed, captioned and audio described shows throughout the production dates.
Rating: I rate it a 5/5 as light hearted interactive entertainment much needed during the current times. I would definitely recommend it for a great audience participation and as a fun filled pantomime suitable for all ages that feels like it is bringing a bit of normality back to the run up to Christmas.
Tickets cost from £15 to £33
Sleeping Beauty is at Sheffield Lyceum between 3rd December 2021 and 3rd January 2022.
For more information or to book tickets visit www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk or call the Box Office on 0114 249 6000
Sheffield Theatres, 55 Norfolk Street, Sheffield, S1 1DA