Plenty to shout about: the verdict on pantos and Christmas shows

A round-up of shows around the country, featuring beanstalks, sleeping beauties, a Cowdashian, jokes for the adults and the chance for children to scream at the top of their lungs

Thu, Dec 19, 2013, 01:00

Helix, Dublin
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Social-media references come thick and fast in Theatreworx’s production of The Sleeping Beauty, from the doorman who talks in tweets to the court stenographer chatting on Facebook. Fairy Sally (Rachel O’Connell) must somehow point nice guy Harry Smiles (George McMahon) in the direction of Princess Aurora (Lauren Nevin) so he can save her from her cousin, the evil Count Comovér (a brilliant Eoin Cannon).

This panto finds the cast working like a well-oiled loom. A frenetic chase scene is particularly dazzling, encompassing snatches of the Mission: Impossible theme, popular hits such as Get Lucky and a familiar routine from The Wizard of Oz.

Cannon channels Captain Hook and John Cleese into his character of Count Comovér. Liam Butler as panto dame Lola tosses out a few grown-up jokes while Colin Hughes as court jester Tickles and Aidan Mannion as the clueless Comere click with the kids by dressing as Minions from Despicable Me. Until January 12 Kevin Courtney

Gaiety Theatre, Dublin
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“Let’s get this show on the road,” shouts one of the dwarfs with gusto as the happy troupe first appear on stage about an hour in. I’d have to agree that things have been lacklustre up to this point. The dwarfs – six men and one woman – add charm, character and flair to the classic children’s story, which ambles along without any major star pull (we expect well-known talent at the Gaiety). Younger children will really enjoy the energetic singing and dancing – our particular favourites are When I’m Gone, Titanium and Twist and Shout. The evil queen (Sharon Clancy), with her cackling laugh, menacing voice and dark costumes, is excellent. But there are few jokes aimed at older children and adults, and where is the dame? Come on, director Daryn Crosbie and scriptwriter Maeve Ingoldsby, you can do better. Until January 12 Sylvia Thompson

The Ark, Dublin
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At first sight, Annabelle lacks star quality – she has a stubby red nose that sniffs the air like a rodent – but looks can be deceiving. Although the sole character of this 45-minute non-verbal play is slow to wake for her impatient young observers, when she does the magic unfolds to reveal some visually remarkable scenes, plotting a simple and endearing story. From a giant illuminating present several objects appear and reappear, to the delighted gasps of children: a puppet version of herself, a pair of long white feathers and a series of musical boxes.

Set to a charming soundscape of dissonant bells, two stars keep watch over Annabelle as she endeavours to discover who she is and where she came from. She makes a beautiful transformation from Annabelle in the flesh to Annabelle as a star, and it is safe to say she is the kind all children want on the top of their Christmas trees: bright, warm and real. Until December 30 Jennifer Lee

Waterfront Hall, Belfast
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At pantomime time, a child’s definition of a good time is a good shouting session. Lisa May’s crackling production gives ample opportunity for shouting, booing and shrieking. Niall Rea’s set comprises a library of fairy tales, whose giant covers are embossed with familiar, if slightly skewed, titles, such as Goldi Socks.

Patrick O’Reilly does not stray far from the story of the little girl doomed to become a wolf’s dinner, but he also works in strands of the lost brother and sister who fall prey to a wicked witch, a mouthy blonde and three tracksuited Essex pigs.

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