Shropshire Events and Whats On Guide

Shropshire Events and Whats On Guide

Theatre Review : Sleeping Beauty at Shrewsbury’s Theatre Severn

Chris Eldon Lee reviews “Sleeping Beauty”, which is at Shrewsbury’s Theatre Severn until January 12th 2014.

It’s not often the baddie steals the show, but Rachel Barrington (pictured) is so perfect for the part there were times when I wanted her to triumph over good – especially as she’s secretly saddled with the name of Maureen!

The tall, raven-haired temptress makes a vivacious and versatile villainess who drives the dark side of this show with huge and passionate energy, setting a very high bar for baddies everywhere else. She pitches the evilness just right, being sexy enough for the dads and wicked enough for the kids (without any of them having to be carried out crying – the kids, I mean). She commands the stage whenever she’s on it; leads some very sinister dance routines and sings “Pin Ball Wizard” with such panache The Who would probably forgive her for customising the lyrics. Miss Barrington will go far – and she’ll never be short of work at the turn of the year.

Fortunately she’s appearing in the best Shrewsbury pantomime I can recall…and that’s down to Evolution Productions and their trusty dame Brad Fitt who pulls an even bigger and better rabbit out of Santa’s hat this Christmas. There are surprises from the start as two of the theatre stewards leap onto the stage before anyone else and dazzle with their dance routine. There’s a very witty vinyl LP routine which left this music buff   helpless with laughter – and Fitt pays due homage to the famous tipping schoolroom bench routine that probably dates back to The Crazy Gang era.

What marks Fitt out as such a superb Dame is his unquestionable love of the genre. He’s so reverent towards its heritage and so confident of his place within it, he can afford to stroll around (with his quick-paced, clenched-buttock walk) and be completely irreverent about everything he’s doing. We all know how he’s riding that cuddly ostrich and Fitt knows we know. So he can play around with that knowledge to hilarious effect, feeling pain in mere padding and blowing it up when it sags a little.

He’s also not above pointing to members of the cast “who didn’t audition”. Does he mean Radio Shropshire’s Eric Smith? I think he does! And because they’re sticking firmly to the story, Eric has a little more to do this year, including throwing himself wholeheartedly into the aforementioned schoolroom scene. It’s funny how seeing the BBC’s voice of authority in short trousers is so ridiculous.

And yet there’s also great dignity on stage when Beauty is laid to sleep; a moment which tolled bells in any audience member old enough to have lost someone dear.

After an interval of 100 years, hilarity breaks out once more with a wonderful dysfunctional bathroom scene in which Fitt and his cheerful-chappie sidekick Adam Moss wallow in laughter and cold water. I’d not seen anything quite like it and there was so much water sloshing around on stage I began to think Shrewsbury’s flood defences might have been built in the wrong place.

Add to all that a particularly spectacular Act One ending and enough jokes about Market Drayton to send it’s residents scuttling for the bus, and you have an ideal entertainment that would be the envy of any other town of Shrewsbury’s size.

Visit for bookings & information about Theatre Severn