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Sleeping Beauty at Cork Opera House: A very modern heroine

Theatre: Despite the charm of its star and production, this pantomime is let down by some puerile writing

Sleeping Beauty

Cork Opera House

For this Cork Opera House production writers Trevor Ryan and Frank Mackey have obeyed most of the demands of a traditional pantomime script except for one: the heroine is no sleeping beauty. Chloe Riordan’s Aurora is a new woman, and even as she slumbers as stiff as an effigy, there lurks a suspicion that she’s about to upset the time-worn narrative by using her 100-year nap as a chance to rewind. Riordan’s cheerful engagement with her young audience keeps an element of fairy tale alive, and despite the script’s dutiful, if fitful, topicality her bright personal charm softens the blow of her awakening as a princess who doesn’t need to be rescued.

Sometimes in danger of total eclipse by Drew McCarthy’s shimmering lighting and by Cormac O’Connor’s sound, this Aurora keeps ahead of the frantic pace imposed by Trevor Ryan’s direction. Once again Cork Opera House puts all its production resources, if not its production values, on display, especially in the glamour in its gorgeous medieval settings by Crossroads Pantomimes.

But it’s fair to ask, on behalf of that portion of the audience whose critical wits are not left outside, how the Opera House can affirm these attributes while tolerating the puerile nonsense which afflicts so much of this presentation. A schoolyard level of rowdy insinuation is surely unnecessary in a story where Aurora frees her prince from his several phobias and happily kisses her toad in sequences which endorse the tale’s mystique.

There’s always an unwanted guest, even at a party in fairyland, and Shirley McCarthy’s Maleficent tempers the goodwill of the hosts of fairies and demons and villagers whose dancing to Ciaran Connolly’s choreography is colourfully responsive to Denise Crowley’s musical direction. The variety of these ensembles provides a fluid excitement also enhanced by Muireann Doyle’s costumes and the achievements of hair, make-up and wigs designer Maeve Redman.


Runs at Cork Opera House until Sunday, January 22nd

Mary Leland

Mary Leland is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in culture