IT might look like it’s all a barrel of laughs but putting on a panto is a serious business where details matter.

“We’ve had several conversations about the contents of the custard pie and whether this type of cream is funnier than that,” said Joyce Branagh, director of Sleeping Beauty, which opens at Salisbury Playhouse tonight.

“Those little things make all the difference,” she adds. “It’s about getting as much fun into every scene as possible.”

Branagh is the expert – after directing pantomimes across the country she has teamed up with designer Keith Orton to write a book on the subject called Creating Pantomime.

“To do it well you have to take it seriously,” she said. “You have to care that it’s good – it’s not just a lot of people messing about on stage.

“Some people can be snobby about pantomime, but thousands of people are going to see this show and for some children it will be their first experience of live theatre.

I see that as a big responsibility, to give them quality entertainment they will enjoy and remember.”

Having an experienced cast helps and the stars of Sleeping Beauty include Sophia Ragavelas, who appeared in Aladdin at the Playhouse two years ago, alongside Keiran Buckeridge as the Dame and Salisbury actor Tim Treslove, who audiences will remember as the villain from Jack and the Beanstalk last Christmas.

“I love doing panto in my home town,” said Treslove, who started out by performing with Stage ’65 youth theatre.

“It’s a wonderful time for families to come together and have a really good laugh.

“Once parents see their children enjoying themselves, they soon join in.

“As an actor there’s nothing better than hearing the jokes work and having to wait for the audience to stop laughing Sleeping Beauty tells the traditional fairytale with a few twists including a trip through time to the 1960s.

There is also a specially written musical score, outlandish costumes and a dazzling set.

“Creating Sleeping Beauty has taken almost a year and it’s been wonderful to see all the elements come together,” said Branagh.

Twelve local youngsters, chosen from almost 100 who auditioned, will be supporting the seven adult leads and playing a key role during rehearsals.

Sleeping Beauty is at Salisbury Playhouse until January 5.

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