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Sleeping Beauty at Horsham

Don't snooze and lose out on tickets for Twixtmas or new year

You know a panto has something for all generations when you end up explaining jokes to each other on the way home.

In the car back from a fun night at Sleeping Beauty at The Capitol, Horsham, I find myself saying “… so you know what Brexit is? Well, remember what metaphors are….?” While my nephews, 8 and 11 fill me in on the You Tube sensation that is the Baby Shark song.

Nicola Hume as Fairy Goodheart

As always, there are a few celebs in the panto cast. Horsham local Nicola Hume, swapping breakfast at Heart FM for nights on the stage clad in light-up trainers, is confident and un-shmaltzy in the role of Fairy Goodheart and does a good take on Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.

Ben Ofoedu as Herman the Henchman

My personal favourite proves to be sometime baddie Herman the Henchman played by Ben Ofoedu of Phats & Small fame. Bumbling, shuffling, but somehow still cool, he comes into his own when there’s a mini rave involved. “You could make a career out of this” jokes Lester the Jester.

Carabosse (boo, hiss)

Though I keep it on the down low in front of the children, I secretly also think Nicole Faraday from Bad Girls, Casualty and Emmerdale rocks as the vampy bad fairy Carabosse, giving it some welly as she sings her plans from her spidery lair.

There’s also strong singing from Prince Rupert (Sean Smith of X Factor‘s Same Difference) and particularly Princess Aurora (Natasha Hoeberigs).

Prince Rupert and Princess Aurora – don’t let the bow fool you, she’s feisty underneath

James Fletcher from Hollyoaks makes a welcome comeback as boyish Lester the Jester (my youngest nephew recognised him and remembered our favourite joke from James’ character last year) as does Hywel Dowsell as the dame Nurse Nora and James Dinsmore as King Joe (‘Not Jo-King’)… who turns at one point into the King of Rock and Roll.

Don’t step on one’s blue suede shoes

Most of the set piece comedy happens in the pacy second half and the highlight is a wonderfully silly take on the Twelve Days of Christmas, with five toilets rolls flying into the audience. My eldest nephew reckons he gets the joke about Nurse Nora’s knob falling off as she holds up her nine knobs and knockers: “it was funny because it wasn’t supposed to happen!” Sure, wink.

It’s Hywel Dowsell at Nurse Nora…oh yes it is

There’s also fun with a time machine that helps our heroes span Princess Aurora’s 100 year sleep. We visit the 60s – cue an Elvis Medley – then the 90s for a rave lead by Ben Ofoedu as Herman. Us adults are straight up pumping our arms in the air while the kids follow us looking amazed.

There’s also a showy surprise in the form of a huge dragon and it’s great to see the princess fighting her own battles for a change and even taking the lead in getting her guy.

The great rake on the seats at The Capitol makes it the perfect place to take youngsters as everyone gets a clear view of the action.

The loveable Lester the Jester

I ask the boys to let me know their favourite characters at the end and the youngest takes the role super seriously. “Can I have four?” he asks. As expected he picks the key comedy leads – Lester the Jester, Nurse Nora and Herman the Henchman – but then he searches through the programme for the ensemble cast and announces ‘Yamit Salazar’. “He’s a brilliant dancer,” he explains.

We agree on the best jokes (mostly from Nurse Norma at the expense of a dad in the front row) and rehearse them until the boys fall asleep in the back of the car.

It’s been a cracking night and we’re still giggling over the panto the next morning while the eight-year-old plans how to make his own ‘boom tish’ sounds on his drums to accompany his jokes and I wonder if I’ll ever get the Baby Shark song out of my head.

Sleeping Beauty is on at The Capitol, Horsham, until Sun 6 Jan, daily except Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, with two performances on most days.

Words: Debbie Ward

Pictures: Stephen Candy

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