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Oh yes, it is! Panto returns to City Hall for the first time in two years

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Julia Kempe, left, and Sheridan Smith as Queen Marigold and King Cactus (Photograph by Anthony Rynne)

The Christmas pantomime will return to the stage today for the first time in two years.

Sleeping Beauty, directed by Laura Bardgett, promises a modern spin on the classic fairytale, complete with a spunky female lead and clever wordplay.

Ms Bardgett said: “It was amazing to work with everyone. Everybody was on their A-game and I really think it comes out in the finished product.”

Jessica Bucher as Princess Rose (Photograph by Anthony Rynne)

Ms Bardgett, who previously directed Adventure in Pantoland in 2016, said she was approached last year to return to the director’s chair for the annual holiday tradition.

She said she wanted to give the show “a Bermudian flavour”, and update it for a younger audience while still expecting tradition.

Ms Bardgett explained that typical pantomime character tropes, such as the prince and princess and the dame, or a female character played by a man, would still be present in the story.

But she said that much of the humour, particularly from the dame, would rely on character traits and interactions.

Ms Bardgett added: “Panto, if we’re not careful, can kind of get a bit stale and it won’t appeal to the younger generation.

The Christmas pantomime returns with a production of Sleeping Beauty after a two-year hiatus (Photograph by Anthony Rynne)

“I’ve spent a lot of time trying to introduce more upbeat and up-to-date music — music that the younger generation would recognise.

“The characters need to be updated; the princess isn’t somebody who needs rescuing — in fact, she’s quite a feisty little princess.”

Johnae Tucker as Good Fairy Lilac, with James Batten as Muddles (Photograph by Anthony Rynne)

Sleeping Beauty tells the classic story of a kingdom attempting to protect Princess Rose — played by Jessica Bucher, Luisa Legere and Siena Walters throughout her life — from a deadly curse cast by the Bad Witch Hazel, played by Eve Lewis.

The antics are punctuated by musical dance numbers and humour ranging from subtle visual gags and Bermudian in-jokes to slapstick comedy and raunchy innuendos for older viewers.

Sheridan Smith and Julia Kempe fill out the cast as King Cactus and Queen Marigold, while stage veterans Zachary Kawaley-Lathan, Stephen Notham and Johnae Tucker lend their talents to the roles of Prince Alexis, Nurse Hettie Harpic and the Good Fairy Lilac.

Eve Lewis as the Bad Witch Hazel (Photograph by Anthony Rynne)

Ms Bardgett said that almost half of the jokes had been added by actors improvising during production.

She added that the cast of 48 people, aged from 8 to 72, had been her biggest team yet — but was easy to guide thanks to the talent of the actors.

“It was a little overwhelming at the start, to be honest, but I haven’t got a single weak actor. The wealth of talent on this island is incredible, especially with the children.

“These kids have been starved of acting for two years — and this is where they get bitten by the acting bug. All they need is some nurturing and they’ll be set.”

Stephen Notman as Nurse Hettie Harpic (Photograph by Anthony Rynne)

Sleeping Beauty will run every night between tomorrow and December 10 at 7pm at the Earl Cameron Theatre in City Hall.

Matinee performances will also be held on Saturday, Sunday and December 10 at 2.30pm.

Tickets can be bought on the Ptix website for $40.

Zachary Kawaley-Lathan as Prince Alexis (Photograph by Anthony Rynne)

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Published November 30, 2022 at 7:58 am (Updated November 30, 2022 at 8:53 am)

Oh yes, it is! Panto returns to City Hall for the first time in two years

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