Words: Matthew Todd
As much a part of Christmas now as mince pies and family rows, Vauxhall’s Above the Stag theatre’s, pantomimes are a festive tradition you don’t want to miss.
From the talented team of writers Jon Bradfield and Martin Hooper and director Andrew Beckett, these annual shows sprinkle real fairy dust over London, turning classic family fare into hilarious smutty adult pantos that are filthy and outrageous but are always served with a generous dollop of warmth and charm that is often lacking in these kind of shows.
This year’s opus is based on the classic tale of Pinocchio, set here in the Italian town of Placenta, where poor down on her luck Gepetta (Matthew Baldwin) and her lesbian daughter Cornetta (a charming Christy Bellis) wish upon a magic star and find that a wooden puppet in their shop, Pinocchio (a fine voiced Jared Thompson) has come to life.
He’s gay, naturally, though not happy about it and has a crush on a handsome closeted footballer (Oli Dickson).
Every time Pinocchio denies he’s attracted to him or tells another lie, part of him grows longer and it’s obviously not his nose.
New artistic director Andrew Beckett does a grand show as ever directing and there are strong performances from regulars Christopher Lane as baddie Figaro and Briony Rawle as a bolshy bottom licking cat called Chianti and from newcomers Shane Barragan as boatman Pedro and Dami Olukoya as lesbian fairy Fatima.
But as with all pantomimes the dame steals the show and it’s Above the Stag stalwart Matthew Baldwin who shines brightest, savouring every OTT moment and flirting outrageously with everyone on and off stage. His dames are an absolute riot.
If you want an escape from the shoppathon, you should act fast. The run is mostly sold out with just a handful of tickets left. Grab them while you can or be ready to spring when they announce next year’s production.
Above the Stag Theatre, Vauxhall. abovethestag.org.uk