Arts Review: Sleeping Betty

Dir. Kenny Miller, Tron Theatre, 27th Nov – 3rd Jan 2015

Princess Betty’s sixteenth birthday promises to be a night to remember in Pantalooney-Land. Betty, or Sleeping Betty as she has been nicknamed, is a gracious young lady who falls asleep instantly at any given time of the day.

Surrounded with some colourful characters, she awaits in anticipation for her birthday party, to which the audience are all invited. All is for the best, until clumsy Hamish, a pink candy floss-coloured (and shaped) hamster, is beguiled by Fairly Evil, greeting the deliciously Machiavellian fairy with an invitation to Betty’s birthday party. Fairly Evil has taken a dislike in poor Betty and has plotted to ruin not only her party and curse the joyful princess for the rest of her days. A horrid plan sprinkled with poisoned cakes, skulled-ornamented magic staffs, and a nasty, nasty spell on Betty…

The Tron’s annual Christmas panto is a delightfully quirky show, with all the ingredients required by a decent pantomime. Both children and their parents are equally enjoying themselves, which results in a noisy but gleeful atmosphere, the ecstatic audience playing their part with intense commitment. Defying any dramatic irony, the spectators give Hamish a hand invoking benevolent fairy godfathers with odd formulas (‘Robert de Niro, Have no fear-o!’ among others…) and waking up drowsy Betty. In this land of nonsense populated by flatulent hamsters, fairy godfathers and half-ogre princes, nothing seems impossible, not even the mention of Irn-Bru by the fairy godfather. Everything turns to chaos.

Indeed the narrative itself is a bit too long and far-fetched, and some characters tend to be a tad annoying (Hamish’s repetitive gags and shrill voice). There are elements of the script which would benefit from tighter, more developed complexity. However, the actors’ performances are, on the whole, a real treat. Neil Thomas’ Queen Pantalooney, the conventional pantomime dame, is a stand-out treat alongside Darren Bronwlie’s obnoxious yet charming Handsome Dan. Yet is Betty herself, played by Amy Scott, who shines here as the most exquisitely sassy princess character of the play.

The pantomime itself is a very traditional one. There is many an occasion for the audience to laugh and sing along to the rousing songs and witness some ‘fancy dancing’ amazingly executed by the dance trained artists. Sleeping Betty is a most side-splitting parody of the well-known fairytale, and will definitely add some extra-fun to the Glaswegian offerings of festive performance throughout December.

[Gabrielle Lucie]

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