WOPA

West Oxford Pantomime Association
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Sleeping Beauty

West Oxford Pantomime Association chose Sleeping Beauty for their 2018 production. Written by one of their own, Helen Reid, but cleverly blended with the original we all know by Charles Perrault.

Set in magical West Oxford, the show opens with a short witty film that sets the scene nicely for the entrance of all the characters involved in the opening number. How they managed to get over thirty people on that stage without mishap I shall never know.

For the set, it was good, straight and simple, easily changed and well painted. The lighting fine but the backing music gave up completely in the second half leaving the cast to sing a cappella.

The basic plot is the same as the traditional tale but interlaced with local characters. The Queen of West Oxford is expecting her first child, the Princes Aurora, this no doubt would account for the pregnant pauses throughout this production, but in fairness it was the first night of the run.

The Queen's arch enemy, Maleficent, is miffed at not being asked to Aurora's christening and so lays the curse of which we are familiar, avoid pin pricks at all costs on your sixteenth birthday - that one.

Maleficent was magnificent, played and obviously enjoyed by Angela Bloss. The only downside for me was she looked a dead ringer for Jane MacDonald and I kept expecting her to break out in song about cruising the Med. A great performance though, aided by her gang of young Imps having the time of their lives.

Jon Rail and Gesa Schenke were the King and Queen. The Kings speech was subdued and inaudible at first but did improve as the show progressed, but both failed to give the regality the parts called for.

Of the thirty plus cast, I counted only seven adults, one of which was veteran WOPA player Steve Jones who as the butler Albert looked the part and was as convincing as any professional. He had caught the eye of the Dame, Fanetta Fanfarah Papoose La Belle, known to her friends as Fanny and responsible for the safe keeping of the young Aurora. Jake Lynch took the part to heart and made a very credible Dame indeed. Then there was John Joliffe as Tom, the wandering minstrel. He was confident, funny, a credit to the panto and should be available for parties, weddings and bar mitzvahs.

Of the younger players, Nat Dixon as Charlie, the suitor for Princess Aurora, impressed us with his enthusiastic self-assured performance. His ad libs were especially appreciated trying to help when things didn't quite go to plan. Isla Roland's role as the Princess again was remarkable for someone of her age, then all the young players were a credit to the Group and congratulations must be aimed at WOPA for encouraging so many of the local youth in the art of amateur dramatics.

The team overcame the various mishaps with humour and patience and apart from one short speech being delivered upstage and therefore impossible to hear, Alison Stibbe 's direction seemed faultless.

Sleeping Beauty provided a most enjoyable evening and judging by the friendliness of the WOPA front of house, enjoyable for them too.

By Am Dram Man for the Oxford Mail

Oxford Mail 20th January

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