Damian’s cure for the winter blues

Damian Williams as Nurse Nellie in Sleeping Beauty at Sheffield Lyceum.
Damian Williams as Nurse Nellie in Sleeping Beauty at Sheffield Lyceum.

Flashes, bangs, pyros, glitter and gallons of water…this year’s panto at Sheffield Lyceum has splash-hit written all over it.

There’s also a fat man in a dress - the adorably delightful and and utterly unpredictable Damian Williams, who’s a perfect fit for the role of larger-than-life dame, Nurse Nellie.

Damian dispenses enough hefty doses of humour to cure any winter blues. although whether he’ll get to January 8 without requiring medical treatment remains to be seen.

At Thursday’s performance of Sleeping Beauty he got his wig caught up in the chain of a toilet cistern and his ostrich costume stuck in the scenery after taking a wrong turn!

But that’s what panto is all about, unscripted incidents giving performers as many surprises as the audience.

Bound by a strict code of panto reviewing etiquette, I’m not going to give the game away but will divulge that there are two shock-and-awe scenes in which the backstage technicians work their magic.

Margi Clarke, otherwise known as scheming Jackie Dobbs from Coronation Street, is a worthy replacement for Corrie colleague Beverley Callard who had to pull out of the panto for health reasons. She’s a truly wicked fairy, dancing with the devil, belting out a reworked Lady Gaga hit, Born This Way, and playing up to the audience with the knockout line: “I love the boos.”

Sid Sloane, from CBeebies, is panto gold in his role of Jangles the jester. He knows just which buttons to push to entertain the kids and get a reaction.

In the title role, Dani Raynes shows off the voice which took her to the final of last year’s Over The Rainbow and is the perfect complement to Jo Parsons as Prince Michael.

Spectators are under no illusion about which county is hosting the show. Ian Chaplin brings a broad Rotherham accent to the role of King Roderick and one of the Dame’s funniest jokes is about Yorkshire people.

The Dame also sports a Supertram costume in a shameless display of advertising, but given the cost of parking at the nearby underground car park (just 10p under a tenner), I may well give that form of transport a go next year.

* Damian Williams will be appearing in the next Lyceum panto , but minus his frocks! He is booked to play Buttons in Cinderella, which runs from December 9 to January 5, 2013. Tickets go on sale on February 4 next year. Contact (0114) 249 6000 or www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk

GAY BOLTON