Sleeping Beauty

Performed November 27th to 30th 2013

Sleeping Beauty - November 2013

I HAD been left in absolutely no doubt whatsoever – this was not going to be the pantomime version of Sleeping Beauty.

“Because I hate pantomimes! Bah, humbug,” said director Eileen Charlton.

OK, I might have added that last little bit myself, but she was true to her word. There wasn’t a single ‘he’s behind you ’ or cross-dressing character in sight in the script written by award-winning modern playwright Charles Way.

Rather, Riding Mill Drama Group ’s latest production could be described as a trio of double-acts with a Black Witch and a Spider King thrown in for good measure.

I can’t use the words ‘gothic influence ’ or ‘reminiscent of the Brothers Grimm’, though, such was the level of entertainment. Gloomy? Don’t make me laugh!

Mike Smith and Frances Holmes were delicious as the bickering, rather dippy King Peredur and Queen Guinevere – their lightness of touch packed a punch in the comedy stakes and yet they could change the atmosphere in an instant.

The moments in which they thought their sweet Briar Rose was dead were genuinely touching.

The dynamics between charismatic White Witch Branwen and Gryff – her halfman, half-dragon, the result of a spell gone wrong – were similar. Played by experienced actors Hazel Osmond and Shaun Fenwick, together they were the strong thread running through the play, and funny with it.

Gryf f’s fears that he would frighten the young Briar Rose he was tasked with protecting were allayed by Branwen’s assurance: “Babies don’t understand the meaning of ugliness – by the time she’s old enough, she will have got used to you”.

The third double act were Briar Rose herself and her gauche young swain, Prince Owain. Pretty-as-a-picture Kate Osmond played the feisty, head-strong teenager to a ‘T’, while Nathan Larkin, who is already making something of a name for himself in thespian circles, was utterly convincing as the canny, but clueless, seventh son of a seventh son.

Watching the young couple preparing to go fishing, Gryff was frustrated: “This love scene isn’t going to plan – his mind is on his maggots!”

But Owain saves the day, of course, fighting his way through the traps set by the hoydenish woodland fairies, the evil Spider King (played with great aplomb by Sandy Gardner, in a wonderful suit adorned with a silver web) and the Black Witch, Modron.

Experience tells me that Anne Lawrence can turn her hand to any role asked of her and as Modron, she was a star. Threatening? I’ll say!

Honourable mention should be made, too, of the stage management team who not only transformed Riding Mill parish hall, but came up with a novel approach to fast tracking the audience through the budding young romance.

The resultant black and white film sequences were very well done indeed.

Riding Mill Drama Group has long been one of the best – if not the best – amateur dramatics clubs in the district and with Sleeping Beauty, they didn’t falter.

If you’ve never seen them before, watch out for details of their next production, the comedy thriller Theft , in March. Written by Rising Damp author Eric Chappell, it apparently has more twists and turns than a Curly Wurly

By Helen Compson –  Published by the Hexham Courant  No link

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