Hot pantos

Raymond Ross

SLEEPING BEAUTY. The Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh, until January 4

The Lyceum is rightly famed for its Christmas shows put together by writer Stuart Paterson, director Hugh Hodgart and designer Gregory Smith. This may be their most successful collaboration to date.

Paterson's unique recrafting of the traditional tale of The Sleeping Beauty includes a witty and magical dream sequence showing what happens in the dreamland inhabited by the sleeping Prince and Princess. After all, why lose two of your main characters in sleep for half the show?

The production is fast and comical with perhaps more of the traditional "behind you!" panto elements than Paterson usually allows himself. It is visually evocative with some brilliant costumes (including a cracker of a dragon) and boasts an excellent musical score by Savourna Stevenson.

The text is richly layered with much for the adult to savour in both language and symbolism, while not imposing itself heavily on younger members of the audience. A seamless garment, indeed.

The wicked witch Talassa (the excellent Irene MacDougall) battles it out quite spectacularly with the Queen of Light (the equally powerful Victoria Hardcastle) in a tale where the tension between Good and Evil is generated to a degree far above the usual panto simulation.

I would hazard that this is Paterson's best Christmas show to date: a thoroughly enjoyable experience, a feast of fun and delight or, as my 11-year-old companion put it, "cool".

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