Review – Pricked – Royal Vauxhall Tavern

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Christmas comes but once a year, and with it panto season – a time of furious theater attendance for me as I am a die hard panto fan. Last year was not one of many pantos given the Christmas lockdown, but one of the few pantos I did see was “Pricked” at the RVT. With its pure cabaret talent, great send ups of pop songs, and snarky take on our political situation, I found it fantastic Covid counterprogramming, and one of the best Adult pantos I’d ever seen.

Grant Cartwright as the Fairest Of Them All. Sorry, wrong fairy tale!

Since half the run never happened, the creative team at the RVT wisely decided to just remount this underappreciated (well certainly underviewed) show rather than cooking up a whole new one, and I was was invited to review it (truth be told I’d bought tickets to a show later in the run, but hey this blog needs some fresh content so now is a good time). Off I went on a Wednesday night … only to found that Prince Charming herself (Chantelle St. Clair) had been struck by the deadly virus (or at least an isolation warning) and was to be replaced by the costume designer, Amy Rose! That’s the life in a cabaret, isn’t it, though. Even though Amy was on book during the show, it didn’t really affect the overall vibe too much, except for one tiny bit toward the end where all of the characters were looking around for a script while one of them was very noticeably holding one, which they all pretended not to see. Now that, I think, is the “magic of theater.”

“Pricked” is, as you might guess, a retelling of the Sleeping Beauty story, only with “our heroine” a wannabe pop star (Grant Cartwright) who dreams of hitting the top of the charts with her vocal stylings. She’s shallow as can be, but since she’s cute and funny, who cares? Certainly not Fairy Merrywhether (Lucy Penrose, God that girl makes me laugh), who’s eager to see Beauty out of the cottage so Merryweather can get cottaging (yes, this is the level of humor for the show, get used to it). However, the spanner in the works is Our Villainess, Maleffluent (Joseph Pollard), still angry from not being invited to the christening party 18 years ago. Mal has sent her wicked raven (Charlie Wood, as heartbreakingly beautiful as I remembered from last year) to find the thorn in her side, and preferably before that irritating rich prat, Prince Charming, gets his …. well, I’m sure another pun involving the title of the show is called for her, but it is the prick that is supposed to break the spell, right, and none of us could find a spindle if our lives depended on it? Good enough ….

Now, the thing is, you know the panto formula, but what you may not know is what makes an adult panto so great. Yeah, sure, there are some very rude jokes and there may be a sex toy, but the thing I didn’t understand when I started going to these is not just how queer/gay they are, but how <I>nice</I> it is to see <I>my</I> culture represented on stage. I mean, gay is not just drag queens (whatever some people think) and bathhouses, it’s a family, a family that has safe spaces to exist and which values its hugely diverse members. Do we include a T in LGBTQ well hell yeah! And we are racially inclusive, male AND female ANNNNNDDDDDD nonbinary (and other flavors), cis and trans …. we are people that have experienced being thrown out of our homes, fired from jobs, abused on public transport, bullied in school, and traumatized by Section 28, devastated by a world that ignored a public health crisis that hit us first …. I mean, this is my big queer family. And a confused Raven who maybe doesn’t WANT to be evil, and a genderfucked Prince with a glittery embroidered vagina where their codpiece should be, and Principal BoysOrGirlsOrWhatever and all of it, the silly pop songs and transformed Abba, it’s all us.

And it’s all at the RVT. And for all it’s silly and rude, “Pricked” is 100% the adult panto that will make YOU feel at home, singing along, laughing, and forgetting, with your found family, for just a short moment (if only it could be forever) what a horrible crap world it is.

How much did I like it? Well, my darlings, I bought tickets before it even opened, and I’d seen it last year, so what does THAT say to you?

(This review is for a performance that took place Wednesday, December 8, 2021. It continues through January 6th and is selling out left right and center so <a href=”https://www.outsavvy.com/event/7325/pricked-the-rvt-panto-2021″>make plans to hang with your queer family</a> while you can!0

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