Review: SLEEPING BEAUTY – ONE LITTLE PRICK: Above the Stag Theatre

Above the Stag Theatre, 15 Bressenden Place, Victoria SW1E 5DD

Above the Stag’s fabulous Christmas pantos have become something of a tradition for those of us who will never really grow out of laughing at dirty jokes, and they have done it again.

Set in the London Borough of Stratford in 1911 (just before Downton Abbey) and 2011 (just before the Olympics), Sleeping Beauty – One Little Prick takes all the usual ingredients of a good panto, sprinkles them with fairy dust, adds a vampiric prince and a splash of sauce, and then pops the whole thing in a cosy 60 seat theatre above a gay pub in Victoria.

Writers Jon Bradfield and Martin Hooper, who also wrote 2 previous Above the Stag pantos – Robin Hood – Queen of Thieves and Dick Whittington – Another Dick in City Hall, have completely reinvented the story, and cleverly managed to include the occasional thought-provoking aspect on, for example, the changing attitudes towards gay people over the last 100 years. They have given the Sleeping Beauty story their unique update and brought it slap-bang into the 21st century with more camp tomfoolery than you could shake a glowstick at!

Beauty (played by the very captivating Matthew Ferdenzi) is the horny closeted heir to Stratford Manor who is cursed by the Wicked Fairy Carabosse (hilariously performed by Samantha Riding). Lucky for him then that Fairy Glowstick (Mandy Dassa), an alcoholic and slightly inept practitioner of the fairy arts, is on hand to protect him. Needless to say, all does not go to plan, and Beauty is sent to sleep for the next 100 years, to be awakened by the vampiric Prince Edward of Tinselvania (played to perfection by the impossibly attractive Greg Airey) with something significantly stronger than a kiss.

They are complemented by an excellent ensemble including Mitchell Lathbury (who I must credit with an excellent singing voice) as Josh the Jester, Steven Rodgers as Sidney the Butler, Ellie Fiore as Aggie / Maggie and Philip Lawrence as Angus Steakhouse / Aggy.

Matthew Baldwin’s buxom dame, Lady Gargoyle, is a magnificent creation; all heaving breasts and one liner put-downs. Impeccably performed and fruitier than a Fortnum’s Christmas pud, Baldwin delivers his lines with all the richness and comedic timing one expects from a panto dame.

One of London fringe theatre’s fastest rising stars, Paul Taylor-Mills has once against proved his flair at directing with this fast and colourful production, wonderfully complemented by David Shields’ bright set and Richard Lambert’s lighting design.

There are some flashes of genius, particularly a lively rendition of “Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch Me” by Prince Edward and Lady Gargoyle. Unfortunately, there are also a few moments where the action appears a little slow, but these do not last long and the very talented cast manage to keep the audience’s attention with some outstanding performances.

Most audiences know exactly what to expect at any panto; and this is no exception. Liberally splattered with innuendo, a thoroughly fabulous panto dame and half-naked attractive young men, Sleeping Beauty – One Little Prick is one panto definitely not for the kids!

Sleeping Beauty – One Little Prick plays at the Above the Stag Theatre until 8 January. Tickets (priced £16) currently sold out but it’s worth trying for the occasional returns on the door.