Thursday, January 10, 2013

REVIEW: Sleeping Beauty (Cardiff)

New Theatre (Cardiff), Monday December 24

On to the 9th show of my 14 shows in 13 days marathon. This is neither a Tchaikovsky ballet nor a musical adaptation of the Disney version. This is a pantomime. For my non-British readers, a pantomime is… hmmm… okay, to be very honest, this is my first pantomime. Being a resident here in Hong Kong, which used to be a colony of the British Empire, there is a pantomime tradition here. Having said that, I have avoided it like a plague due to the way it is usually described, “It’s a children show with a lot of adult jokes that only the adults will understand. Also, there will be a lot of cross-dressing and audience participation…” Okay… now I understand where the British eccentricity came from. This time though, I was in a marathon. Beside, I was staying with my British family and they all wanted to go to a pantomime… so why not.
Looking at the advertisement, it proudly declares that it features Joe Pasquale as Muddles, Ceri Dupree as Queen Passionella and Lucy Evans as Princess Beauty. Well, I have no idea who the hell they are! When I asked my British family members, I am not surprised that they also didn’t recognize these people. But that’s the point! Why the hell do they still want to see it! Looking at the advertisement, it also proudly declares that it is “with amazing 3D special effects”. I thought that is kind of witty given that it will be live theatre, of course everything is “3D”! Well, before I entered the theatre in New Theatre in Cardiff (it was new in 1906), I was provided with 3D glasses, why? Because in two different segments when the characters where traveling (such as looking for Princess Beauty), the production indeed showed films with 3D effects and in it, the audience encounters all sorts of scary creatures such as bats, spiders, snake… get the idea?
What was lacking in sophistication was compensated in the how it was staged and the professionalism of the performers. They were not the best in the industry, but they did a more-than-decent job. The jokes were corny, not even when delivered by Joe Pasquale. The costumes were beautiful though, especially the ones of Queen Passionella who insisted that everyone should reply “faaaaaaaaaabulous” every time he/she ask “how do I look?” The one thing that really surprised me was that the audience were very well-trained. They definitely know the drill… when to shout "she's behind you!" or reply "Oh, yes it is!" and "Oh, no it isn't!" They also boldly boo the villain and coyly "awwwww" any sad or sweet situation.
After the show, I specifically ask my “sophisticated” British friend Mark (who only prefers opera and shun musicals) whether he liked it or not; and he replied, “that’s the best pantomime I have ever seen!” When I ask when was the last time he saw one, he replied, “oh, a loooooong time ago, but I used to see it every year when I was a kid!” This is my theory; the traditional and sentimental value of pantomime definitely plays a huge part in the enjoyment of this art form. OH, YES IT IS!

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