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Panto shines but suffers from under-use of May McFettridge

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PANTO REVIEW: Sleeping Beauty @ Grand Opera House

It has pyrotechnics, a cheeky good fairy covered in glitter with a nice line in impersonations of Catherine Tate and Cheryl Cole, a bad fairy played with somewhat measured abandon by Lorraine Chase of Emmerdale fame, the obligatory slumbering beauty and a colloquial Prince Charming named Daniel from Dunmurry, catchy pop tunes, plus an affable, balloon-swallowing joker named Muddles – energetically portrayed by Matt Edwards.

But what this panto did not have was anywhere near enough of a spotlight on the grande dame of Northern Irish panto May McFettridge, the ever bewigged and over-rouged, flat-footed north Belfast broad made iconic by John Linehan – the main reason many of us flock to see the annual Opera House festive jamboree. Why anyone decided to reduce Linehan’s role this year, in this reviewer’s opinion, was a real mistake, as it is May who draws out the winning banter with the audience, and especially with the over-awed children each year, and without her improv and wit the panto didn’t sparkle in quite as many ways as it should have.

But I won’t be a total Scrooge – the production did aim for jollity, spirit and fun, and it did succeed in places as well as providing a colourful specatcle of lights, smoke and dancing, a fascinating ride on a flying motorbike and enough cheesy gags to make some of us laugh and inwardly groan at once.

Sleeping Beauty runs at the Grand Opera House, Belfast until January 19, 2014. Visit www.goh.co.uk or call 02890 241919.

JOANNE SAVAGE

 

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