Sleeping Beauty

Written by Mark Wakeman

Thur 4th December - Sat 6th December & Wed 10th December - Sat 13th December 2014

Directed by Roger Wallsgrove

AuthorMark Wakeman

Mark Wakeman

Mark Wakeman is an amateur author, playwright, actor and and director. He started writing short stories at the age of 8 and, spurred on by positive comments from a teacher, was inspired to write many more. It wasn't until he went to university, however, that his writing achieved wider recognition when two of his situation comedy scripts (co-written with Neil Kendall) - 'The Quiet Life' and 'Helpline' were performed by the University of North London Theatre Society. The success of these two works led to a full-length thriller, 'Undue Aggravation', being taken to Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 1995. Following university, he directed his own comedy 'Terror at Blagg Castle', which was produced by Goggles Theatre Company at Portsmouth Arts Centre in 1996, and Bench Theatre has produced several of his his one-act plays; 'The Unusual Suspects', 'Ice Station Zeros', 'Father for Justice', 'Lonesome Pine', 'Unworkable', 'The Big Freeze', 'Stand and Delivery' and 'The Girl in the Corner' for various 'Supernova' festivals of new writing since 2003.

Mark wrote both the 2010 Bench Christmas Production 'Cinderella', and the 2012 production 'Aladdin'.

His novels (as yet unpublished) include works in the detective, comedy, thriller, fantasy and sci-fi genres and he hopes to one day see one of his screenplays for sit-coms, TV detectives or sci-fi/action-spy thrillers accepted by the BBC. As an actor, Mark Wakeman has been performing since he was at school. The first of many acting roles with Bench Theatre was Dr John Jobling in 'Martin Chuzzlewit' in 1990 and he frequently receives excellent reviews. He directed several one-act plays at University of North London Theatre Society and his first directing role with Bench Theatre was 'The Office Party' by John Godber in 1998. As a member of the Soop Theatre Company, he has performed improvisational comedy in their 'Dude, Where's My Script?' shows since 2008.

Wakeman won Best Original Play for 'Stand and Delivery' (2007), The Madge and Stanley Williams trophy for Best Script for 'Father for Justice' (2009) and Best Original Script for 'Girl in the Corner' (2012) all in the All-England Drama Festival. In 2014 he again won the trophy for best original script for Grotto.

Since he joined Bench Theatre in 1990, he has been a member of both the Bench Committee and Artistic Panel, and was Editor of Bench Press for a number of years. Mark Wakeman currently has four cats and lives in Havant.

PlaySleeping Beauty

The Bench Production

Sleeping Beauty poster image

This play was staged at The Spring Arts and Heritage Centre, East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977.

To hear an exciting trailer by Billio and Blunt, click on this link!


Billio (Narrator 1)Mark Wakeman
Blunt (Narrator 2)Dan Finch
Queen DewdropLeigh Cunningham
King MingJeff Bone
Queen CharleneZoe Chapman
MagnificaSarah Parnell
Snowdrop (fairy 1)Robin Hall
Buttercup (fairy 2)Jo Langfield
Rosebud (fairy 3)Claire Lyne
Princess AuroraJessi Wilson
Dennis (Stable Boy)Beth Evans
Prince CrackingSophie Hoolihan
Herbert (Squire)Tasmin Halford
Dean (gnome 1)Chris Vanstone
Kevin (gnome 2)Gina Farmer
Colin (gnome 3)Alan Welton
Malcolm (Fairy King)Paul Millington
Grand Duchess BettyRuth Prior
Algernon (horse 1), Peasant, Simon TrowelPete Woodward
Reginald (horse 2)Kate van Gend
Toby (robber 1),Proclaimer 1Terry Smyth
Rupert (robber 2), Proclaimer 2, Prince PhwoarStuart Reilly
Traders, soldiers, peasants etcSandra Constable, Melissa Hackney, members of the cast


Director Roger Wallsgrove
Producer Megan Green
Stage Manager Marion Ward
Assistant Stage Managers Verity Butler, Melissa Hackney
Props Julie Wood
Lighting Design Phil Hanley
Lighting Operation Alan Ward
Sound Design Jacquie Penrose
Sound Operation Jacquie Penrose
Costumes Sue Dawes, Di Wallsgrove, Robin Hall, Lorraine Stone, Julie Wood
Set Design David Penrose
Set Construction Bench members
Programme Editor Derek Callam
Front of House Sally Hartley

Director's Notes

Following the great success of the previous Bench pantos, Cinderella (2010) and Aladdin (2012), it was clear that another "Brothers Grimmer" panto was due this year. But wait! No director, and an incomplete script.... which is where I foolishly stepped in. "I'll direct!" I said. "Come on Mark, finish your Sleeping Beauty script!"

Not knowing what they were letting themselves in for, the company agreed with me (oh yes they did!), and Mark set to work with his usual flair and comic genius. Several drafts later, losing some characters (the trolls) and gaining others (Grand Duchess Betty), we had a working script, and I assembled a fantastic team of helpers.

What you will see on stage today is the result of some amazingly hard work by a great many people, not least the cast. We have had lots of fun along the way, and I have learned a lot (mostly not to volunteer for things....)

Author's Notes

Back By Popular Demand!

So here is the third of my Brothers Grimmer pantos. Yes, I know I said I would never write another one but I was made a liar by a dream so here we go again!

The plaudits and awards (yes, we won an award for 'Aladdin', can you believe it???) plus the fact that everybody involved had such a great time with the last two convinced everyone to try again for a third time. So 'Sleeping Beauty' is the last part in my trilogy (who would ever have thought I would write a trilogy ...I can't even spell trilogy the editor had to correct me!) However, this time I will say 'Never say never' rather than 'Never ever' as I think this will be the last one.

As usual you don't need to have seen either of the other two to enjoy this panto, although there are returning characters and jokes from the previous two by popular demand. I've also tried to remain as true to the original version of the story as possible, well unless I could think of a way of doing it that had more jokes in it! I've relaxed the no singing/dancing rules this time though, well it's the last one so why not?

Someone described 'Aladdin' as like a panto done by Monty Python which made me extremely proud as they were a big influence on me, but all my other comedic inspirations are easy to spot and all had an effect on the writing. From Hancock to Eric and Ernie, Carry On to Up Pompeii, Will Hay to many more! See if you can spot them all!

Lastly I would like to thank the cast and crew for their tireless enthusiasm and hard work for bringing this script to the stage. All the hours I spent locked away in the dark banging out different versions of the scripts (we got up to the 9th draft with this one!) is nothing compared to the sheer hours that every other member of the group has spent in trying to make the silly ideas from my head come to life. It's been a lot of hard work but hopefully you the audience will reap the benefits and have an amazing time!!!

Thank you again for choosing to support a local theatre company. Without your patronage we wouldn't be able to function and bring you the range of theatre that we try to do throughout the year.

So laugh, boo, heckle and jeer and enjoy our panto at the end of the year!!!!

Mark Wakeman (Author and Billio)

Mark Wakeman

Busy Sew-and-Sews!

Bench Theatre has a costume cupboard full of beautiful if rather vintage items, most in smaller sizes from times when veteran Bench members were younger with more slender waists. Still, there are gems to be found therein. (Someone recently remarked to me that amateur actors have to fit into the costumes available but this can often be impossible not to say quite uncomfortable).

I remember the bathing costume I made for Widow Twanky with fondness for its flamingo print and somewhat masculine dimensions. Unlike that one, some of these costumes have been worn time and time again. King Ming's robe was originally made for our production of "Brief Lives" March 2011. Did you recognise it? No! - well you missed a treat. The red dress the Queen wears is a stalwart member of the Bench wardrobe and has been worn innumerable times.

However, the giant squid costume has only been worn for one previous production. This panto is one of a trio written by Mark: Cinderella, Aladdin and Sleeping Beauty, so some unusual characters or creatures have been revived and I love this continuity between the plays. "A giant squid!" we said, when the whirlwind that was the Aladdin production was over, "When are we ever going to need him again?" We don’t have much storage space and it seemed that he was doomed for the recycling bin. Luckily I live in a large house and have plenty of room for enormous carrier bags of giant squid costume to be left in the corner of a chaotic costume room at the top of the house to be "sorted out later" and here we are, the very same squid reappearing in all its glory.

The usual plethora of flower fairies, Proclaimers, peasants, Ninjas(?), Cheryl Cole (who is she?!), Princes Dashing, Dancer and Prancer etc. Oh no! It's nearly Christmas! Join the giant squid et al in this phantasmagorical story of medieval forest folk. But what are they all going to wear and by the way what did happen to those thigh high boots bought at Primark and worn by royalty in Cinderella?

I would like to thank all my costume team for rallying round once again… but do excuse me – I must go and make two Ninja costumes before breakfast!

Sue Dawes (Costume Designer)


The NewsJames George

The Bench's Sleeping Beauty, penned by Bencher Mark Wakeman, is great fun, tweaking the original tale but retaining its plot with some fine original touches.

One of the perils of amateur performance is, of course, that the quality of individual performers can run the gamut of quality from A to Z-minus and that's certainly true, here. Some performances are definitely weaker than others - but there are some stonkers.

Both Wakeman and Dan Finch (as co-narrator Blunt) relish the audience interaction - of which there is exactly the right amount - and manage it well. Robin Hall, Clare Lyne and (particularly) Jo Langfield make a feisty trio of good fairies; Ruth Prior is a joy as Grand Duchess Betty and Mary Berry (yes - you read that correctly); Leigh Cunningham makes a great Cheryl Fernandez-Versini (you read that correctly, too) and Jessi Wilson is a joy as Aurora.

But Sarah Parnell, as the appropriately named Magnifica, is brilliant. Here is an actor who has dealt with a caricature as a character part. Yes - it's hugely over-the-top and unreal (she's a bad fairy, for heaven's sake!) but it's genuine and played for the truth of the situation.

Go have a laugh.

James George, The News, December 2014

remotegoatJill Lawrie

"Hilarious Happy Ever After Tale"

Bench Theatre's own multi-award winning writer Mark Wakeman has completed his Brothers Grimmer trilogy by adding "Sleeping Beauty" to his previous successes "Cinderella" and "Aladdin". His tireless enthusiasm and fertile imagination ensures this classic tale will appeal to all ages from 5-95. This timeless traditional fairytale features not only a beautiful princess, dashing prince, malevolent Magnifica, fairies and love-struck servants but is also right up to date with a nod to popular contemporary television shows including "Strictly Come Dancing" and "The X Factor".

The backstage crew have contributed enormously to this colourful production with striking paintings depicting peacocks and castles plus an impressive array of gaudy cup cakes! Roger Wallsgrove directs this large enthusiastic cast with many fine strong performances. Sarah Parnell is a memorable wicked fairy playing the enchantress Magnifica. Her distinctive make-up and long green talons deliciously adding to her fiendish character. Mark Wakeman (Billio) as always can be depended upon to raise the bar and comically ad lib where required. Robin Hall (Snowdrop) and Jo Langfield (Buttercup) were lively and spirited fairies with Paul Millington playing Malcolm the Fairy King attired in an unbelievably impressive outfit - silver from head to toe! Jessi Wilson excelled as the sleeping beauty Princess Aurora culminating in her priceless sleep dance hilariously resulting in a Strictly score of 7!

A thoroughly entertaining show well put together and quite clearly a great deal of fun. Highly recommended to get the festive spirit underway.

Jill Lawrie, remotegoat, 13th December 2014

Production Photographs