A boost of fun, laughter and general theatrical pre-Christmas cheer, that is, thanks to the return of the panto at the Millennium Forum.
With all Covid precautions in place, the audience at the Forum’s Sleeping Beauty was safely checked into the auditorium, more than ready for an injection of magic to help cure the pandemic gloom - and magic was what they got!
Now in his fifteenth year in residence as Panto Dame at the Forum, William Caulfield as Nanny Cranny was in top form, wisecracking with members of the audience.
With his quick-fire fun for the children and his more ‘subtle’ gags for the adults, Caulfield also shared with the audience a sense of the deep gratitude of the performers to be back in the theatre. Stopping the panto business to thank the audience, the house lights went up and he then asked frontline workers to stand and receive applause for their work during the pandemic - a genuinely moving moment.
Nanny Cranny was partnered with handyman Pickles, the children’s favourite. Keith Lynch has played the panto baddie in the past but he comes into his own as clueless but lovable and loyal Pickles.
Sleeping Beauty was played on this occasion by Ellen Hasson who stepped out of the ensemble to provide cover for Rachel O’Connor and, an assured and confident Beauty she was. With a fantastic vocal performance, Ellen was given a huge reception by her home town crowd.
Prince Charming was played by Conor O’Kane, another smashing vocalist, who brought a lovely touch of comedy to the leading man role.
Another audience favourite was the Lilac Fairy played by Orla Mullan. Playing Beauty’s protector from the evil Carabosse the Black Fairy, Orla’s character enlisted the help of the audience children to call for her when Beauty was in danger - and call they did with ear-splitting enthusiasm.
The Maiden City is synonymous with musical talent and the Millennium Forum’s panto backs up that boast with Orla Mullan’s incredible vocals completing the fantastic musical contribution with Ellen and Conor.
Topping the list for me was the fantastic Karen Hawthorne as the evil Carabosse - a brilliant performance, relishing her casting as the baddie and whipping the audience up into a fervour of booing and hissing.
Karen’s entrance as Carabosse set the bar high for the rest of her performance and she didn’t disappoint. Her bottle green gown was just exquisite making Hawthorne’s Carabosse probably the most glamorous panto villain I’ve ever seen. It was no surprise to me that Karen Hawthorne has in the past been nominated as Best Panto Villain in the UK Panto Awards- she is top notch!
One final shout out to the two sign language interpreters who signed the entire show including music and sound effects - well done, Forum.
Sleeping Beauty was the perfect winter-warmer of a night out and runs in the Forum until January 2, 2022.