The Comet’s Damion Roberts takes a trip to cast an eye over this year’s big panto

The Comet: Sleeping BeautySleeping Beauty (Image: CPG Photography)

When it comes to Christmas traditions, sitting back and savouring Paul Laidlaw’s performance in the annual Gordon Craig Theatre panto is as much a part of the festive season in North Herts as visiting Santa’s grotto or falling out with loved ones over the turkey and sprouts – and not talking to them until Boxing Day.

This year’s choice at the Stevenage theatre is Sleeping Beauty, and I took the opportunity to catch the show one week in – after it had a chance to iron out any teething troubles.

The indefatigable Mr Laidlaw, who has written and directed more than 20 pantomimes at the theatre, once again dominates the stage as the dame with more than a little help from his extravagant costumes, which this year include a cupcake and a lavish garden number.

This vibrant production – full of fun – was written and directed by Chris Jordan, and offers colourful sets and even more colourful characters.

There were fun songs, characters – and props – popping up into view at unexpected times, enough references to bands such as One Direction and Little Mix for the children, and plenty of tongue-firmly-in-cheek jokes for adults.

There were solid performances from the rest of the cast – Gregor Stewart as Prince Valiant, Daniella Piper as Belle, Nicola Bryan as the Jane Horrocks-esque Fairy Fortywinks – but the most laughs went the way of a jester, as you’d expect. Played by Northern Ireland’s Aidan O’Neill, a hit in last year’s Aladdin show whose presenting credits include Nickelodeon, MTV and Paramount, Chester the Jester had the crowd in giggles throughout.

Wendi Peters of Coronation Street fame is the marquee name in the cast this year, and she looked like she was having a ball as the baddie Caraboose.

She didn’t even bat an eyelid when she and Nicola combined to pull off a narcolepsia/dyspepsia rhyme.

My wife and three-year-old joined me for the trip, and it says much that the little one remained wide-eyed until the very end – though perhaps the running order is 20 minutes too long for some.

But, having said that, my little lad insisted on standing up and dancing to such an extent that his exertions made sure he was fast asleep for the journey home – evidence enough that he’d just had a real blast, along with the majority of a vastly-entertained audience.

Sleeping Beauty runs until Sunday, January 24.

To check availability and book tickets, call 01438 363200 or visit

If you’ve seen the show, tell us what you think – email with your reviews.