Tag Archives: Carole Todd

Sleeping Beauty Takes a Prick!


Charing Cross Theatre



“a fabulously silly night out of innuendo, double entendres and tongue twisting rhymes”

Pantomime is one of Britain’s most enduring Yuletide traditions. Its origins go back to 16th century Italian Commedia dell’Arte although, as with most Christmas traditions, it was much improved upon by the Victorians. You can see the century’s old traditions of gender swapping in the grand old dames and evidence of when performers weren’t allowed to speak in its physical comedy. He’s Behind You!, a new production company from the team behind pantos of yore at Above The Stag theatre, take panto to the next logical conclusion, turning the camp up to 11 with a no holds barred, totally gay panto in ‘Sleeping Beauty Takes a Prick!’

Welcome to Slutvia! A lesser-known eastern European state, home to Prince Charming and Queen Gertrude who are welcoming their first born baby and now heir to the throne to the nation’s Sluts. This is all much to the dismay of Prince Camembert, Prince Charming’s sassy younger brother who is now out of the line of succession. Prince Camembert’s curse, that a prick will kill the young boy before he comes of age, is modified by the fairy godmother so that he will only croak if pricked from behind. Skip forward to days before the prince turns 21 and, of course, hilarity ensues.

It’s an uproarious production, satirically written by Jon Bradfield and Martin Hooper but largely carried by the comedic performances of Matthew Baldwin as the fabulous Queen Gertrude, whose difficulty for remembering names and catch phrase of ‘don’t correct me’ got funnier each time, and Chris Lane as the villainously bitchy Prince Camembert.

“Costumes by Sandy Lloyd and Robert Draper are impressively extravagant”

The whole cast are enthusiastically panto with surprising musical chops. Daisy the distracted Fairy Godmother, played by Jordan Stamatiadis, and Myrtle/Maria, played by Nikki Biddington, both have strong vocal performances – surpassing expectations for a panto of this scale. The real surprise vocally however, is Matthew Gent as Josef/Jonas whose sweet lovelorn duet with Nikki Biddington is revealing of his West End credentials.

The original music and lyrics by Jon Bradfield are a real highlight and the show could have benefitted from more. The opening number, ‘Welcome to Slutvia’, really sets the tone for what’s to come; an interlude in the song ‘At the Races’ sending up ‘Cats’ really tickled the musical buffs in the audience; and ‘Meet Me in the Garden’ at the end of the second act, sets up the most squirm inducing moment of the show.

Costumes by Sandy Lloyd and Robert Draper are impressively extravagant, especially for Queen Gertrude in their Art Deco glamour and, occasionally, ability to spray bodily fluids. David Shields’ set also seems to spare no expense with an inordinate number of scene changes. Where set and props are lower budget they are intentionally the butt of the joke, all in the spirit of panto.

If you’re looking for a fabulously silly night out of innuendo, double entendres and tongue twisting rhymes without kiddies throwing lightsabers about, this show will hit the spot.


Reviewed on 29th November 2023

by Amber Woodward

Photography by Danny Kaan



Previously reviewed at this venue:

Rebecca | ★★★★ | September 2023
George Takei’s Allegiance | ★★★★ | January 2023
From Here To Eternity | ★★★★ | November 2022
The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore | ★★★ | October 2022
Ride | ★★★★★ | August 2022
Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike | ★★★ | November 2021
Pippin | ★★★★ | July 2021

Sleeping Beauty Takes a Prick!

Sleeping Beauty Takes a Prick!

Click here to see our Recommended Shows page


Pinocchio: No Strings Attached!

Pinocchio: No Strings Attached!


Above the Stag

Pinocchio: No Strings Attached!

Pinocchio: No Strings Attached!

Above The Stag

Reviewed – 22nd November 2019



“arguably the least subtle show to ever grace the stage, yet it is so fantastically brazen about it that you can’t help but be charmed by it”


Right, I’ll just come straight out and say it. This show has ruined Pinocchio for me. There. Happy, guys? My childhood has been well and truly shattered.

Why? Because Jon Bradfield & Martin Hooper’s Pinocchio: No Strings Attached! is not a screen-to-stage magical Disney story for the family. Instead it is a filthy, raunchy, hilarious and shockingly rambunctious romp which takes the phrase ‘adult pantomime’ to dizzying new heights. How? Well, let me just say that when Pinocchio lies in this show, it isn’t his nose that grows bigger… suffice to say I’ve never wished someone to be truthful more.

Just about every sex joke ever conceived (no pun intended) is crammed into this panto, which may as well have been called ‘Carry on Puppeteering’ as far as innuendo is concerned. It is arguably the least subtle show to ever grace the stage, yet it is so fantastically brazen about it that you can’t help but be charmed by it. Make no mistake, this is not a play for prudes – the humour is so blue it’s setting up fake fact-checking websites as we speak.

The basic story is more or less intact, but switched up for a more modern retelling aimed at the LGBTQ+ community and heavily Frankensteined to make it infinitely ruder and incredibly camp. It’s certainly great fun, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that Pinocchio: No Strings Attached is a play without heart – love and acceptance are very much the order of the day. Alongside Pinocchio (Jared Thompson) embarking on a journey to become a real boy, his main struggle here is coming out and accepting his own sexuality as he falls for Joe (Oli Dickson). However, the story is not strictly his and each character has their own love battle, bar the villainous Figaro (Christopher Lane), who as the town’s corrupt, bigoted mayor seeks to ruin things for everyone.

Despite all the low-brow ‘take me through the back passage’ jokes, the play is quite often refreshingly progressive in opening conversations about xenophobia, homophobia and people of colour struggling to find their identity in the LGBTQ+ world. There are also plenty of clever topical references thrown in at the delight of the audience, some of which are so current I can only assume they are written in the moment they appear in the news.

It is always important for a panto to be visually stimulating, and David Shields’ set design does not disappoint – it’s colourful and exciting without cluttering the stage; Jackie Orton’s costumes are similarly pleasing to the eye. The score (Jon Bradfield), whilst not the most innovative musically, does a great job of furthering the characters’ love stories in a succinct and enjoyable way, and the lyrics are an absolute riot.

The stand out performance is without a doubt Matthew Baldwin, in drag as Geppetta. He commands the stage with utter confidence and has the whole audience in his palm for the play’s entirety. His performance is relaxed, almost lackadaisical yet playful, and the timing of his rapier-sharp wit is the mark of a true virtuoso. It isn’t just Baldwin though, the whole cast are to be praised for the show’s slickness. The characters are memorable for the most part, the energy is never at risk of dropping and Andrew Beckett’s attentive direction has created a show that feels completely precise and polished.

If this year you fancy a deliciously crude panto that sticks to the winning formula and doesn’t pretend to be anything different, then Pinocchio: No Strings Attached is the one to see. Just don’t bring your kids.


Reviewed by Sebastian Porter

Photography by PGB Studios


Pinocchio: No Strings Attached!

Above The Stag until 11th January


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Title Of Show | ★★★★ | February 2019
Goodbye Norma Jeane | ★★ | March 2019
Romance Romance | ★★★★ | March 2019
Queereteria TV | ★★ | April 2019
Fanny & Stella: The Shocking True Story  | ★★★★ | May 2019
Happily Ever Poofter | ★★★★ | July 2019
Velvet | ★★★ | October 2019


Click here to see our most recent reviews