The Sleeping Beauty, Argosy Players - Winston Churchill Hall, Ruislip, January 15-18
Sleeping Beauty, this year's pantomime by Argosy Players, has to rank as one of the best and most enjoyable pantomimes I have seen!
Brilliantly directed by Tom Mackriell and Sally Munday, this was a production that really did have something for everyone.
The gags came thick and fast, while the up-beat musical numbers were a perfect balance to the action and there were none of those over-long slushy prince/princess songs that get the kids fidgeting and asking how much longer there is to go.
A good test of the quality of a pantomime is whether a high level of audience participation can be maintained throughout, and, in this show, the whole audience were loudly and enthusiastically involved from start to finish.
The strength of the innovative script was that it was written by long-established pantomime star Nigel Ellacott, and no one could know better what works and what doesn't.
Add to that some inspirational directorial touches, and what you have is a winner. Just one example: anyone who goes to a panto is familiar with the "It's Behind You!" routine, but in this production just the addition of some very clever direction lifted the scene to new heights.
Credit must also go to the talented cast. Anne Robinson would have been out of place at this show because there were no weakest links!
Just right in the title role as the innocent Princess Aurora was Eirlys Roff, who was perfectly matched with Prince Rupert, played by Samir Sherif. Their You're So Lovely musical number, a cover of the Scouting for Girls hit, was a highlight.
Samir also put on a magnificent display of vanity, and greeted every wolf-whistle with a simple "I know".
I was also very impressed by the confident and polished performance from Sam Webb, who played Muddles, and immediately set up an enthusiastic rapport with the audience.
Newcomer Mandy Gasson was great as the rather inept Fairy Godmother, as was young Shannon Stroud, who played her sidekick Fairy Clover.
There were also excellent performances from Yvonne Stroud, who cackled hideously as the evil Maleficent, and Vinay Lad as her assistant Fungi (pronounced "Fun Guy").
And no pantomime would be complete without a Dame, in this case Stoo Gill as Dame Dolly.
The main players were supported by other fine performers, whom space unfortunately prevents me from listing, as well as a number of younger members of cast, but I must mention one of the dancers, Helen Gamble, who, along with Sam Webb, had done all the simple and effective choreography.
The lively musical numbers were accompanied by a group of excellent musicians under the direction of Andrew Cowburn.
The Argosy Players are not just about performing, but they also have an extensive social programme as well, and are always looking for new recruits. Find out more online at www.argosyplayers.org.uk.
They will be back with Cold Comfort Farm at the Compass Theatre from May 13-16.