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REVIEW: Sleeping Beauty, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry

THE secret to a good panto is providing laughs for the children as well as the mums, dads, and grandparents. It’s not easy.

Cue Larry Grayson and Tommy Cooper sprinkled with a lot of Baby Shark, served up with a dollop of slapstick, a side order of ad-lib, and a large helping of camp panto Dame — the perfect combination!

That pretty much sums up this year’s brilliant seasonal offering from the UK City of Culture-elect.

Sleeping Beauty is the Belgrade’s 24th panto to be written, directed by and starring Iain Lauchlan (a BAFTA winner as co-creator of children’s favourite The Tweenies). And although it’s the first one I’ve seen, it’s clear to see why he has established Coventry as a family Mecca at this time of the year.

This was good old-fashioned entertainment: no celebrity name atop the bill, very little glitz or glamour, even the story of Sleeping Beauty itself was, quite honestly, a bit of a sideshow as Lauchlan and his sidekick and regular partner in crime, Craig Hollingsworth, plundered their way through three hours of what felt more like the Nanny McWheeze and Muddles the Jester Show.

But also in keeping with panto tradition, the audience played their part (one dad was dragged up on stage to take part in what can only be described as custard pie curling), while the five toddlers who were chosen to join the stars in the spotlight at the end were unwittingly hilarious before leading the house in a sing-a-long performance of Baby Shark (if you don’t know it, Google it!).

It’s worth mentioning that this is a year of anniversaries for the Belgrade: 60 since the theatre opened and 50 in the business for celebrated set designer Terry Parsons, who began theatre life as a ‘bucket boy’ at venue’s panto back in 1968. Both were suitably marked by Lauchlan and co!

Sleeping Beauty is old school. But that’s what’s brilliant about it: it was rough around the edges, one or two lines were forgotten amidst the madness, and the acoustics weren’t brilliant among the ensemble, but who cares about that, it was laugh-a-minute and that’s what panto’s all about!

And even before the show had finished, it was announced that the Lauchlan juggernaut would continue for a 25th year with Puss in Boots.

In the meantime, tickets for Sleeping Beauty are still available — it’s the perfect tonic to beat those winter blues!

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