Sleeping Beauty Take a Prick

"This pantomime was nothing short of a raucous and raunchy night out"

"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. Can he defeat his wicked uncle, reclaim the throne, win his man, save his mum, establish some form of primitive democracy?"

As the opening number says, Welcome to Slutvia! A place that has never heard of Hamlet (or seen the Lion King, for the plot would have been surprisingly familiar). What it has seen is plenty of laughs and buggary!

Directed by Andrew Beckett, this pantomime was nothing short (for longer is always better) of a raucous and raunchy night out. Sex, drugs and filled with (Horse's) spunk, as the saying goes. Beckett's direction was never static and always had somewhere new for the audience to look. It was a visual spectacle, helped by designer David Shields, as each costume was clear and brought the nation of Slutvia to life. That said, the ‘pride’ themed dress at the races not being the progress flag was disappointing at a gay panto.

A lot can be said for Queen Gertrude, Matthew Baldwin, so much like some of the Queen’s tongue-twisters - prepare for a mouthful. If you can swallow being roped into yelling at a dying queen then sit in the front row. This dame was a tremendous success. Much of the laughter came from expert comedic timing, delivery and the actor just having a good time on stage. It really feels like Baldwin is enjoying being the butt (of the jokes) and ramming a few down some throats too.

The script, written by Panto veterans Jon Bradfield and Martin Hooper, really made some of the cast’s tongues work. Including classic moments such as a sing along and the production company's titular: He's Behind You, the script was the full package.

However, the ghost scene was unfortunately lacklustre and blue (balling). It felt unrehearsed which meant the ghosts came on as the cast finished singing, leaving the audience call outs to be spoken over and relatively ignored.

Another disappointment was the stage team, Daisy Francis-Bryden and James Prendergast, as many scenes were still being put in place during the scene or stage hands were physically coming through the curtain to close a door that wasn't working or pull a backdrop into the wing. For a production of this budget it was odd that moments like this existed. 

That said, designed by David Shields, from castle, to stable, to racecourse, it was pretty and colourful and well crafted. Painted like something straight out of a drawing book, Set Blue Scenery and Tom Baum had taken the fairy tale concept and brought it to life effortlessly.

Someone who didn't just give the tip but went in deep was Matthew Gent. He performed extraordinarily from Chorus to Josef to Jonas and even pulled out a great King Charles impression when it was time to don the crown. Taking each role and letting it fill him in every crevice, this performer was a joy to watch.

Some cuts should have been made for the evil uncle Prince Camembert, Chris Lane. Always speaking in rhyme he often didn't leave time for the audience to laugh or boo before speaking. There were no jokes to cheese or something of the sort, though the actor was good but his script needed more thought.

The lighting design, by Jamie Platt, gave each location its own a unique atmosphere, especially considering the set. Particularly the use of colour and spot to highlight the magical fairy godmother. This department also played an important part in bringing the spaceship to life and was well done to let it glow green.

Though the musical numbers featured movement more than choreography, by Carole Todd, it was effective and entertaining and there isn't much more that can be asked for when watching a maiden, a dame and an alien prancing around on stage.

If you're looking to sit back and be pleasured by something pretty without thinking too much then Sleeping Beauty Takes A Prick is a fun night out. With small areas of improvement, it's possible that after a few more rubs it will come to fruition.

Sleeping Beauty Takes a Prick is playing at the Charing Cross Theatre until the 13th of January 2024 and He's Behind You are already promoting next year's pantomime.

This show was reviewed on the 29th November 2023.  Tickets are available here: Charing Cross Theatre

Review written by Ryan Lenney

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Photo credit: Danny Kaan & Oli Sones

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