I’m not a fan of panto.
There, I’ve said it. Bah humbug. Rehashing the same fairytale stories each year with a heavy dose of silly childish humour is not really my idea of fun.
Throw in some sexual innuendo, however, and you’re more on my wavelength. Add some filthy jokes, hilarious cultural references and a fair amount of swearing, and you’ve got yourself an adult panto. But if that tickles your fancy, then make sure you see Sleeping Booty at the Leicester Square Theatre. It’s not for the faint-hearted.
Writer and director Stuart Saint retains all the usual panto tropes, but cranks up the xxx rating. Our fairy narrator is the sexualised Fairy Muff; the slop scene involves some embarrassing audience participation (not to mention some earlier twerking); there’s a variety dance routine with bells on; and the traditional sing-along has some…updated lyrics. It’s rude, crude and camp as Christmas.
The less you know about the show the better, but the (loose) plot involves the gangsta rapping princess Booty and her quest for the biggest prick in the land (and I don’t mean a spinning wheel). She’s aided by Fairy Muff, Prince Willie Wontie (himself on a mission to regain the affections of his love Punani) and You Look Familiar (multiple roles), but of course they’re thwarted by The Evil Mangelina and her arse-isstant Tit-Bit. The narrative barely follows the original and is totally lost, but who cares when the silly fun and biting contemporary references are so damn hilarious?
The performances contain plenty of ad-libbing, with consistently funny jokes and excellent comic timing. The bootyful Alice Marshall is utterly engaging as Booty, spitting out rapid-fire rhymes and slut-dropping with gay abandon (even if her booty could use a touch of Kardashian padding). Paula Masterton’s Fairy Muff does most of the legwork when it comes to the singing and whilst her vocals are strong, the song choices are a little outdated. So too is drag queen Miss Dusty O’s schtick. She certainly serves up some Disney villain realness as Mangelina, but her entrance to Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance is very 2000-and-late and her jokes feel overly scripted, often missing the mark. She’s totally upstaged by the sassy Tit-Bit in amusing dinosaur onesie – with her facial expressions and comical dancing, Rachael Born is a hoot to watch. Leon Scott improvises well as the Prince, and Alexander Beck balances multiple characters with ease.
If there’s one major positive about panto, it gives actors a chance to let their hair down and have some fun in the face of yet another piece of ‘serious’ theatre. When the cast are enjoying it, the audience will too and it’s clear that the cast of Sleeping Booty are having an absolute whale of a time. The result? I laughed my titbits off.
Watch: Sleeping Booty runs at the Leicester Square Theatre until 17th January.