Posts Tagged ‘panto’

Review – Pricked – Royal Vauxhall Tavern

December 12, 2021

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=”″>make plans to hang with your queer family</a> while you can!0


Review – Sleeping Beauty – Greenwich Theater

December 7, 2019

Andrew Pollard’s annual Panto offering at the Greenwich Theater has become one of my seasonal favorites … it has a genuine home-grown feel, with fresh talent, gaudy and cheery sets, and an emphasis on storytelling, music, and fun that make it heads above the very commercial outings that make it on the ATG circuit. Putting a TV star on stage, or the winner of a “talent” contest, might be a good way to sell tickets, but it does not guarantee a good show. But taking a talented team and bringing them back together year after year – and fleshing the group out fresh drama school graduates getting lucky breaks – ensures the show itself is the star, and lucky audience members get to see the results – a panto with lots of laughs at a price you can afford.

This year the panto is Sleeping Beauty and it’s a celebration of the Greenwich theater’s 50th anniversary. Now, it seems unlikely that this theater is actually only 50 years old, but it did actually wake from a “long sleep” in the 60s, when it was refurbished after spending many years as a bombed out wreck. So the story of a young actor discovering a treasure in the storage area of the old theater isn’t too far off – only in the version we see on stage, what Ewan (Regan Burke) finds is a magic egg – the Fairy Faberge (Funlola Olufunwa) that transports him back from the swinging 60s to Russia in the age of the Czar.

Now the Russia scenes were where I was really grooving on this show. The backdrops of painted buildings with spiraling eggs on top were so pretty, and I loved the interiors that had designs taken off of Russian eggs. It’s also not the fantasy world I usually think of for Sleeping Beauty, though it was very much a fantasy because the Tsar was “Ivan the Slightly Irritable” (Martin Johnston) and his enemy was Rasputin (Anthony Spargo), who got a loud accompaniment of “Rah Rah Rasputin” every time he came on stage, much to MY delight (I’m a fan of music of that era). I think Baba Yaga would have made more sense, but she doesn’t have a catchy tune. The Princess (Anastasia – of course! – Esme Bacalla-Hayes) was pretty and lovable and had SUCH a voice, can I say her version of “Seasons of Love” was my musical highlight of the evening?

Of course we all know that neither the male nor female lead can be the star of the show – it has to be the dame! And Andrew Pollard as Tsarina Bertha delivers in spades, with an endless series of corny costumes, many bad jokes (I honestly had no idea a black pudding was shaped like a sausage), and enough ad lib to keep the rest of the cast very much on their toes. The designated audience target was not playing along very well the night I went, however, and everything seemed fairly controlled – things will probably become even sillier as the run progresses (this review was on press night, a week after it started).

Things became VERY silly when the Anastasia and the court reconvened in the 60s – in fact, they went to the moon! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a dame in a space suit, and I’ve certainly never pelted the stage with moon rocks before! Somehow the kids managed to NOT actually hurt anyone, and we of course had a happy ending – much like the Greenwich Theater has.

That said – I almost feel like this panto was playing it a bit safe – almost no political jokes, although a reasonable dose of off color ones. I wonder: has the political situation become so dire that even a smaller theater is afraid to tweak the nose of the rich? Or perhaps Pollard was thinking his jokes could go stale overnight with an election smack in the middle of the run! Hard to say but I think the rich and politicians could have used QUITE a bit more being made fun of. Hopefully next year we’ll get a bit of zip and zing back in it – Panto is one of the few places where the disempowered fight back, and I want to see more of this!

(This review is for a show that took place on Friday, November 29, 20119. It runs until January 12th.)

Dick Whittington and His Cat – Hackney Empire

December 7, 2007

I decided to attack my sour mood today with a strong dose of Panto. So off to the Hackney Empire I went – rushing a bit (albeit unnecessarily) to make a 7 PM start time.

The theater was sadly only half full (especially when you consider the rave writeup it got in the Metro this morning), and we were berated a bit for not cheering loudly enough (“You paid your money, you’ll might as well try to enjoy yourself, it’ll get you out of here sooner”) and laughing at the appropriate moments (I’m sorry, a pun on “Black Pearl”/Blackpool Tower is a bit lost on me). But the singing was very much on key, if too much toward the moderne style that I dislike so much (I don’t know, does it really keep the kiddies coming?), there was a fair bit of fun dancing (I have to say the extremely skinny four year old was cracking me up), as well as garish costumes, sexual innuendo, and actors cracking each other up.

There was an undersea dance number featuring a clownfish sculpture that was so heart felt I felt it should be called “Finding Emo.” I really don’t know how spending time in Neptune’s Kingdom fit into the legend of Dick Whittington, but then, since I’m American, it might just be one of those rather obvious things I hadn’t noticed (like the fact it’s the Tower Bridge that’s the coolest looking Olde Fashioned bridge in London, not the London Bridge).

And there were MONKEYS. A whole scene, I tell you, on “Monkey Island,” with a giant, King-Kong style puppet. And there was a ship that floated across the stage, split, and sunk; and a transmorgrifying fairy that turned from a smallish human into a tiny doll that was pulled up from the stage into the balcony on a string. It all basically made no sense at all (this cannot be considered a spoiler) and I had tears trickling out the corners of my eyes during the very first scene. W and I had a great time and I consider the evening a grand success.

(Oh, and I should mention, both the Cat (fabulous dancing; spoke only in “meows”) and King Rat (in leather trouser and knee-high boots) were VERY sexy – three times as much as short-skirted Principal Boy Dick, who sang fine and had a great and chipper attitude but was sadly not allowed the benefit of a leather costume.

Bitchslapped by God at the Drillhouse

December 7, 2007

Wednesday evening got off to a rather stressful start when I went to get some money for dinner and realized I’d very much like to be paid tomorrow, if not yesterday, but thankfully, Miss Booklectic repaid her theater ticket in yummy food for me (Ooze; on Goodge Street, a risotto restaurant and clearly the best named joint I’ve seen in ages) so I was covered.

Then it was off to The Drill Hall for Bitchslapped by God. Well, perhaps it might have been a good show, and I think the actor (Everett Quinton) was more than competent, but watching him play, I don’t know, some eight different characters, plus dancing puppets doing a jazz Nutcracker, animated dolls re-enacting some kind of Snidely Whiplash/Polly Pureheart drama, and a trio of cutout faces which he used to play a series of elves having a chat with Mrs. Claus was just a bit overwhelming. He went too quickly from one charactter to the next (just basically turning around and addressing the air where he was just standing) and wasn’t really capturing the differences between the “characters.” It was some kind of anti-war thing (black helicopters snatching away participants in the Million Santa March), but … well, it just wasn’t coherent. Or interesting. In fact, I was kind of dozing off. When intermission rolled around, I dashed away as quickly as I could, feeling guilty about leaving booklectic behind, but … well, closing eyes are a sure sign it’s time to call it a night.

Tonight I’ll be seeing Dick Whittington at the Hackney, and I’m very much hoping I’ll get in a much more Christmas-cheery mood.