People have lots of Christmas traditions. In my family, Christmas started when my dad put on his ‘Bah Humbug’ hat. For many, a trip to a pantomime is a big tradition, and for lots of people in London and beyond that pantomime trip would be to Vauxhall and the Above the Stag adult panto. Alas, it is no more, but thanks to the wonderful folks at He’s Behind You Productions, the adult panto is alive and kicking as their production Sleeping Beauty Takes a Prick settles into its Christmas run at the Charing Cross Theatre.
In the tiny Baltic state of Slutvia, the people are rejoicing as Queen Gertrude (Matthew Baldwin) has given birth to a son and heir, Prince Ariola (Tom Mann). Well, not everyone is rejoicing as the king’s brother Prince Camembert (Chris Lane) has now dropped from being the heir to just being the spare. In a rage, Camembert curses Ariola to die if, well I can’t divulge too much, but if a certain thing is put in a certain place before his 21st birthday. If you’re having trouble working out what and where then re-read the title of the show and think about postmen, putting letters into a post-box (or just go see the show). Anyway, I digress. Some twenty years later, having usurped the king, Camembert is doing everything in his power to get a sword in Arry’s (as he is known to friends and families) scabbard.
I’m not going to go into too many details of the plot which feels loosely – and I do mean that – based on Hamlet in places, because Panto plots are usually pretty thin and don’t stand up to too much scrutiny. And why should they? The plot of a panto is to get from a tale of despair to a happy ever after using a talented cast on a stage in some amazing costumes – in this case designed by Sandy Lloyd and Rober Draper – and for everyone to have a couple of hours of pure unadulterated naughty fun. Given that brief, does Sleeping Beauty Takes a Prick deliver? You bet it does.
Jon Bradfield and Martin Hooper have delivered a script that spans the years, running from 1902 to 2023, and has its fair share or jokes that could be categorised as either topical, dad, innuendo-filled, just plain nasty or a combination of all five. The majority of which work and get the audience laughing – and at times gasping with surprise. There are a lot of references to parts of the body normally not discussed in polite conversation, and a graphic depiction of how to calm a nervous horse that I doubt the Jockey Club would endorse.
The whole cast work as a well-integrated team who just seem to be having a lot of fun doing what they do. They are genuinely supportive of each other and never seem to bat an eye when a mischievous Baldwin throws in an unexpected ad-lib. The chemistry between Arry with Myrtle (Nikki Biddington) and Arry with Zupp (Myles Hart) was lovely to see and Jordan Stamaiadis’ good fairy Daisy just stayed on the right side of sickly sweet to not become annoying.
I loved David Shields’ set which was simple but really effective, in portraying the palace and exteriors of Slutvia and when combined with Director Andrew Beckett and Choreographer Carole Todd gave the production a real air of the professionalism seen in pantomime productions up and down the country. Whilst I enjoyed absolutely everything, the total highlight for me, and going by the reactions of a lot of others, was Gertrude’s dress at the races – simply stunning. What else did I like? I loved the fact all the traditional pantomime elements were there – booing, cheering and greeting one of the characters whenever they came on stage, along with sweet throwing and a truly awesome sing-along moment.
My one criticism is that I thought the show was a little long and the pace dropped in a couple of the scenes. But in the end, my companion Michael and I had a thoroughly good time with lots to talk about after we left the theatre. Ultimately, Sleeping Beauty Takes a Prick does what every good adult panto should. It entertained the audience without taxing their brains too much and gave them the wonderful, shared experience of being able to be little kids again laughing at knob jokes in the playground without feeling guilty. Happy Christmas and God Bless Us Everyone I say
Review by Terry Eastham
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