There were moments in this adult panto when one felt the production was milking the fact that it was an adult panto for all it was worth. I could have spent the evening keeping a tally of the number of jokes (inverted commas or not) about private parts – save for the show being, all things considered, rather entertaining. For a narrative that starts in 1902 and ends in 2023, it’s reasonably paced. On occasion, the set changes struggled to keep up with the dialogue, which might have been a deliberate move (one never can tell at the panto), which if anything maintained interest in a show fairly light in terms of an actual story.
Not, as I never seem to tire of saying, with the unyielding enthusiasm of panto’s own stock phrases such as ‘oh no it isn’t’ and ‘it’s behind you’, that anyone in the right mind primarily attends the panto for the plot. The sheer amount of references to recent news items is impressive, with the occasional collective sharp intake of breath followed by a round of nervous giggling at a punchline that is arguably a little too close to the bone. There are even nods to more family-oriented pantos – I liked a line about there being some birthday celebrants in the audience, but the whole ‘happy birthday’ segment is entirely dispensed with.
In this regard, and others, I found this adult panto distinctly less embarrassing than some family ones I’ve been to. What I really mean to say is that this one wasn’t embarrassing in the slightest. For instance, I once had a rather mortifying experience in which my name was called out at a panto during the ‘parish notices’. Nobody told me they would do so beforehand, and as I momentarily disengaged with the stage action, I failed to hear it, so they had to call my name out again. I suppose I should be grateful they didn’t ask the rest of the audience to ‘help’.
Anyway, this is a panto that works. The cast work their socks off to make it all happen, but it doesn’t feel like hard work, and one can sit back and enjoy proceedings, and have a hearty laugh. It’s never difficult to know when to ‘boo’ and ‘hiss’, or indeed cheer, and the call-and-response is short, and therefore memorable – just two words from Daisy (Jordan Stamatiadis). And yes, I remember what they were, but let’s not be giving everything away…
That said, I trust it is not too much of a spoiler to say there is only partial nudity – I suspect the ‘full monty’ may have required a cautionary note in the programme, or even at the point of booking tickets, to that effect. Technically, the whole Prince Arry (Tom Mann) comparison with a certain British ex-Royal doesn’t quite work: he (Arry, apparently short for Ariola – ‘a German record label’, according to Google) might well have written a book called ‘The Other Brother’ but he never leaves the royal family of – wait for it – “the tiny Baltic state of Slutvia”.
There are no weaknesses to report in a cast that gels very well together. I don’t know if Matthew Baldwin’s Queen Gertrude was actually providing ad-libs. Judging by the reactions of fellow cast members, I suspect so, but I’ve also heard of casts in pantos ‘corpsing’ (inverted commas mine) at every performance. On press night at least, it seemed sufficiently genuine, and ultimately I suppose it doesn’t really matter either way, so long as the audience is entertained. The costumes (Sandy Lloyd and Robert Draper) are vibrant and a pleasure to see, with the Queen getting several rounds of applause during the course of the evening. In the absence of anything negative to report, full marks to this perceptive and charming night out.
Review by Chris Omaweng
Sleeping Beauty Takes A Prick! is the brand new, adults-only pantomime from the team behind Above The Stag Theatre’s legendary queer Christmas shows.
Journey back in time to the tiny kingdom of Slutvia, where a prince searches for the boy of his dreams at his 21st birthday ball. But when he takes a prick in the palace rose garden, he magically wakes up in a modern world where palaces are run by the National Trust and the man of your dreams is somewhere on Grindr.
Can he defeat his wicked uncle, reclaim the throne, win his man, save his mum, establish some form of primitive democracy and still find time to catch up on 30 seasons of Drag Race and the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe?
Sublimely silly and staggeringly rude, Sleeping Beauty Takes A Prick! is a fabulous, feel-good, festive treat, bursting with big laughs, sensational songs, colourful sets and all the panto trimmings.
Producer – Oli Sones for He’s Behind You! Ltd
Writers – Jon Bradfield and Martin Hooper
Songs – Jon Bradfield
Director – Andrew Beckett
Designer – David Shields
Costume Design – Sandy Lloyd and Robert Draper
Lighting Design – Jamie Platt
Musical Direction – Aaron Clingham
Choreographer – Carole Todd
Sleeping Beauty Takes A Prick