BARBARA FISHER enjoys bucket-loads of singing and booing on the opening night of Sleeping Beauty at Beck Theatre
I'VE just had my hair ruffled by a gorilla and water squirted in my face. Yes, it's panto time again! This year's Beck offering has bucket-loads of audience participation and everyone, from tiny tots to grandparents, shouted, sang, booed and cheered as if they too had been rehearsing for the big opening night.
The children were ecstatic when gorillas ran through the auditorium and when giant water pistols came out, they couldn't believe their luck. I just wish I'd ducked.
Thankfully, there's plenty of 'dry' humour too, from jokes about expense claims for mortgage payments on a second castle, to a description of a Good King Wenceslas pizza - 'deep and crisp and even'. Wonderful.
The whole script is cleverly updated: the King, played by a fatherly Andrew Whitehead, may have destroyed all spinning wheels, but he's forgotten about those on eBay.
Star Lorraine Chase is fantastic: I've never before seen a bad fairy that gets the audience to like her.
With her super-glam costumes and faultless timing, she has a commanding stage presence which is far removed from the Luton airport girl in the Campari advert that first made her famous.
Princess Beauty (Ellie Baker) and Prince Harry (Sam Cassidy) are so compatible - with their glossy looks and excellent voices - they could have been cast from an internet dating site.
The dame, with the unfortunate name Nanny Fanny, was appropriately outrageous, thanks to Tim Hudson's energy and costumes, while Alex Young proved to be a very likeable Fairy.
It's no surprise that the brilliant Mark Jones, who is made for pantomime, is back at the Beck playing Muddles this year.
His particular forte is with the children who join him on stage. He cleverly milks and mimics their idiosyncrasies without ever making them look daft. I cried with laughter.
I was disappointed that Beauty and the courtiers seemed to be in real time, and didn't sleep for 100 years, and I thought there was far too much smoke - it was like an old London smog at times.
Any mistakes (such as missing custard pies on the opening night) will now have been ironed out, but blips are all part of the fun.
Never mind the turkey and the tinsel, panto is the traditional treat that no one should go without. Go and see Sleeping Beauty and take all the family. * Sleeping Beauty is at Beck Theatre, in Grange Road, Hayes, until January 2. Tickets are £17.50 and £21. Box office: 020 8561 8371.