Sleeping Beauty at the Millennium Forum review

For a few hours this week, I got to sit in a theatre packed with hundreds of other people and managed to forget about Covid.

Nanny Cranny William Caulfield and Princess Beauty, Rachael O’Connor in Sleeping Beauty at the Millennium Forum.

When you’ve got kids, Christmas just doesn’t seem complete without a trip to the Panto, and with last year’s show cancelled due to the pandemic, the Millennium Forum’s popular festive production is back, and it’s better than ever. It was a full house at Newmarket Street for Sleeping Beauty, and the stellar cast leads the audience of all ages through a thoroughly enjoyable show, packed full of seasonal silliness.

Taking centre stage again is master and mistress of panto land William Caufield. He’s already clocked up 15 years on the Millennium Forum stage, and for the 2021 run, the array of frocks, shoes, and wigs take the meaning of fashion to a new level.

And really, what is a pantomime without the traditional dame? While the character of Pickles (portrayed by Keith Lynch), keeps the kids happy, Caufield had the adults enraptured with his repertoire of jokes that only mums and dads will understand. Caufield’s natural interaction with the audience is what has made him a local panto institution. I can’t imagine a Christmas without him. My sympathies to Leon in row three, who Nanny flirted with all night.

Orla Mullan as Lilac Fairy in Sleeping Beauty at the Millennium Forum.

Nanny Cranny skilfully steals the spotlight in every scene, with her crafty one-liners, cheeky side glances to the audience, all while managing to balance an impressive beehive wig on her head. She’s ably assisted by her sidekick Pickles, an equally cheeky and daft character, who managed to get every child in the theatre to mimic his ‘secret sign’. Watch out for the snowball fight in Act 2!

Sleeping Beauty, played on Thursday night by Ellen Hasson, was every little girl’s dream as a princess, while Conor O’Kane provided a comic edge to the usually dull role of Prince Charming.

When it came to music it was the good and bad fairies that lit up the Millennium Forum stage with Line of Duty star Orla Mullan’s (The Lilac Fairy) Seasons of Love a particular favourite.

But it’s Karen Hawthorne’s (Carabosse, the Bad Fairy) rendition of Sweet Child of Mine and Killer Queen that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up! What a voice and what a performer. And she makes quite an entrance on stage.

William Caulfield as Nanny Cranny in Sleeping Beauty at the Millennium Forum.

This is the tenth pantomime I’ve watched at the Millennium Forum, and I was delighted to once again see the Scooby-Doo Ghost scene included. The kids loved it, and let’s face it – any excuse to shout, ‘It’s behind you!’

Packed with great song and dance routines, hilarious comedy, dazzling scenes, and magical special effects, this festive favourite is fun for all the family from 4-94! A fantastic array of actors young and old to kick off the festive celebrations.

Of course, Covid restrictions meant a few elements of the pantomime had to be eliminated such as the cast entering the main theatre and high fiving their fans. And there were no children invited on stage to meet Nanny. But Sleeping Beauty got its run time correct this year and I for one was glad to leave the theatre without tired and cranky children up way past their bedtime.

Full marks to William Caulfield who put his serious hat on for just a few minutes at the end to give a touching tribute to frontline workers, and then asked any NHS or key workers in the audience to stand up for a round of applause.

Conor O’Kane as Prince and Rachael O’Connor as Princess Beauty.

Sleeping Beauty runs at the Millennium Forum until Sunday, January 2, 2022. Tickets are available from the Box Office and are priced from £12.00. Telephone 71 264455 or visit millenniumforum.co.uk for bookings.