Writer: Anna Spearpoint and Louise Beresford
Director: Emily Abound
If you have ever thought that women and villains in fairy tales got a raw deal, then Anna Spearpoint and Louise Beresford’s entertaining alternative panto The Fairytale Revolution is here to set things straight. Streamed by Theatre503, this show builds on Pirandello and Laura Wade to let some overlooked panto characters break free of their stories, unleash their real selves and find a whole new destiny.
In Neverland Peter Pan prepares to fly off with the Lost Boys for his latest skirmish with Captain Hook but both Hook and Peter’s friend Wendy have had enough, joining forces to prove they have been misrepresented all these years. A fierce fighting Wendy and a more delicate Captain Hook must then defeat the power of the evil Narrator if they want to live their new lives.
If there is one thing we can be sure of in this difficult year, it is that the show must go on and live-streamed theatre has become an essential viewing experience during this increasingly restricted Christmas. Despite some technical troubles that set The Fairytale Revolution back an hour, the determined cast and Theatre503 team persevered with their spirited and thoughtfully considered performance to add their own twist to the pantomime style.
There is audience participation: the “oh-no it isn’t” game, original songs, new words for well known tunes including Let’s Get Ready to Rumble and the Time Warp, a puppet narrator, boo hiss villains and gun-ho heroes but smartly shaped by the unhappy actors fighting over the right direction for the story. Moving in and out of character, there are lots of amusing scenes as Wendy and Hook refuse to play along while later Spearpoint determines to continue the story alone when her colleagues go off-track.
On a modest budget, the set looks like a child’s bedroom with paper mountains and trees decorating the walls, with chests and bookcases all painted in primary colours as all of the panto’s locations. As Wendy and Captain Hook travel, the camera focuses on a moving illustration and there are flying Barbies on broomsticks, a dragon and the gates of the magical land are seemingly pushed open by the camera and the power of the audience’s cheers.
The show is a little chaotic and scrappy in the middle as they search for other famous panto characters to help them locate the Narrator, dipping in and out of the newly configured story that is occasionally hard to follow. Once the characters reach Enchantia they encounter a Southern belle Bo Peep, an Italian-accented puppet Pinocchio and Aladdin before breaking scene to read out some audience birthdays and hellos to the viewers, which slows the pace, and feels superfluous.
Performed by Spearpoint, Beresford and Nicole Sawyerr, the actors initially play multiple roles but once Peter Pan is pushed out of the story, Beresford largely plays Captain Hook as a sensitive poet desperate for a career change who has a consistent Haiku joke; Spearpoint is the fairy Tinkerbell frustrated by the plot changes but eventually joining the revolution against the Puppet Narrator that she also voices as an increasingly megalomaniacal baddie while Sawyerr plays the newly empowered Wendy refusing to remain in the background.
There are a few too many ideas so the twists and turns extend the run time to a lengthy 85-minutes but The Fairytale Revolution takes an unusual idea and runs with it. It might be a little difficult for children to follow in places, but the cast have created a show that is big, brash and bold with lots of opportunities for the audience to shout and cheer along.
Runs here until 23 December 2020