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Review: Sleeping Beauty at Liverpool Everyman ****

Whatever else is going on in the world, there are thankfully some constants in life – one of them being the Everyman rock ‘n’ roll panto.

And here it is, launching Liverpool’s helter skelter rush towards Christmas with its colourful mix of feisty heroines, hapless heroes, a spike-heeled female baddie, Technicolor fairies, a lavish amount of double entendres, and thumping music played live by the cast.

Regular writers Mark Chatterton and Sarah A Nixon have taken the classic Sleeping Beauty story and run off in all directions with it, pilfering from Mary Poppins, The Wizard of Oz, Romeo and Juliet and Back to the Future along the way.

The convoluted plot yo-yos backwards and forwards through time, the action unfolding within the dial and cogs of a giant clock in what is a fresh-looking set from regular rock ‘n’ roll panto designer Dinah England.

Sleeping Beauty's Fairies. Top: Gracie Lai as Magnificent. Photos by Robert Day

When the fairies forget to invite Magnificent (Gracie Lai) to Princess Rosa’s (Stephanie Hockley) naming ceremony, then fail to make her the young royal’s fairy godmother to boot, she wreaks her revenge with impressive and everlasting dedication.

It’s down to Fairy Poppins (Anna Soden) and a swirling cast of crazily-attired characters (hats off to the wardrobe department) to save the day…several times over the course of 100 years and the production’s two-and-a-half hours.

Two of the craziest of the crazily-attired are Queen Gladys and Sir Roger.

Last year Francis Tucker revealed he was stepping back from rock ‘n’ roll panto duties, leaving Everyman regulars wondering who would fill his dame-shaped void – and whether they’d be able to generate the same on-stage rapport as Tucker had with his long-time panto partner-in-crime Adam Keast.

Well fear not, because Matthew Quinn more than ably fills those big shoes (and domed-shaped girdle), albeit in Queen Gladys finery bearing such an uncanny resemblance to Jeffrey Holland in Hi De Hi you expect Ted Bovis to appear at any moment.

Matthew Quinn as Queen Gladys. Photo by Robert Day

He also creates a delightful double act with rock ‘n’ roll panto veteran Keast who is in fine fettle as the loyal, loveable but often luckless Sir Roger, the show’s irrepressible comedy fulcrum.

The production takes time to fully wake up – the first 15 minutes feel a little low key – but once it does, there’s lots to enjoy, including Jamie Noar’s narcissist prince and Danny Burns’ quick fire costume and character changes, as well as a beautifully-executed silent movie slapstick boxing match.

A sinuously-structured and satisfyingly silly seasonal voyage across space and time.

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