Sleeping Booty – Bridge House Theatre, London

Reviewer: Chris Lilly

Writers and Directors: Luke Adamson and Brendan Matthews

There is lewdness abroad in Penge West. King Cole and (drag) Queen Constance have to christen Princess Aurora without telling the wicked Carabosse. Carabosse finds out anyway, and lays an evil curse on the tender babe. You all know this story. What may come as a surprise is Aurora’s fairy godmother walking off the job, handing her wand and wings to the bumbling chief councillor BoJo, and leaving him to sort the whole mess out.

This take on Perrault’s well-loved, oft-told tale explores dark bye-ways and buried desires with a devilish relish. The cast spends as much time chatting up members of the audience as it does re-telling the story of the Sleeping Beauty. It is very rude. It is very funny. Alex White’s BoJo is a treasurable impression, Sarah Louise Hughes employs her awesome bendiness to great effect as various fairies and princesses, Steve Banks is a magnificently oily Prince Phillipe both before and after his imprisonment in Carabosse’ dungeon, and Ellie Walsh and George Lennon, drag king and queen, stalk the audience searching for illicit thrills. Front row patrons stand warned.

It was very evident from the delighted chuckles, however, that this audience was well up for it, and joined in with a will. Given the slightest encouragement, the Walsh-Lennon duo identified where ‘too far’ was and went further than that with wicked glee. That the very same company had been very able children’s entertainers in the afternoon show speaks to their versatility and audience-awareness. After his torrid experience in Carabosse’s dungeon, Prince Phillipe can no longer rouse the sleeping princess so Councillor BoJo gets to do that too, and the story rounds off neatly, everyone on stage paired off happily, everyone in the audience satisfied, and there’s still enough time for a mulled wine or two in the pub downstairs

There is some very nice projected scenery, there is a whole-hearted engagement with naughtiness, and there is an energy that moves the story along at a pace, albeit for nearly two hours starting at 9.00pm. In Penge! But the audience was up for it, and a raunchy good time was had by all. The sight of a comatose Sleeping Beauty recomposing herself when someone’s improvisation gave her a fit of the giggles added to the anything-goes merriment.

This is very much adults-only, late night panto. The intimacy of the space gives an edge of delicious danger to the interactions between cast and audience, the full-on commitment of the actors is a joy.

Runs until 1 January 2022

The Reviews Hub Score

Dungeons, damsels, drag-queens

The Reviews Hub - London

The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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