“Creaky plot apart, Peter Pan’s Labyrinth is loaded with sparkling gifts for the audience.”
If The Sleeping Trees are back in town, it must be panto time. Well, sort of. For one thing, we’ve only just climbed out of our Halloween costumes. How lucky for us that The Sleeping Trees’ by now familiar formula of mashing together well loved folk tales, allows us to enjoy November and the holiday season in a whole new way. Putting together Peter Pan with Labyrinth is certainly an eye opening take on two classic favourites. If you are curious to see what happens when Peter Pan actually does grow up, and how he manages to end up trapped in The Goblin King’s Labyrinth, hurry along to the Vaults near Waterloo Station. But don’t take the kids with you this time. Because Peter Pan’s Labyrinth is an adult panto. Besides, who wants to spend time explaining the jokes to the kids when you could be singing and dancing along with Ziggy Stardust instead?
Peter Pan’s Labyrinth is the same kind of unlikely mash up as the Sleeping Trees’ 2020 Moby Dick Whittington. Sadly, the 2022 combo isn’t quite as successful as the earlier production, even though it’s fantastic to see the Trees back on stage instead of in front of the camera. The inventive energy of the performances, the set and costume design (Maeve Black), and effortless rapport with the audience is still there. Sound design (Ben Hales) and Lighting Design (Clancy Flynn) are strong in The Vaults’ rather gloomy setting. Perhaps the plot problem is that Peter Pan’s Labyrinth really is about Peter Pan, and the Labyrinth part of the story mostly functions as a way of bringing on David Bowie in his fabulous wig and costumes. At any rate, Peter seems to spend a long time finding his way out of the Labyrinth, even if it is explained by the fact that he is now middle aged and unable to fly. Not even Kermit the Frog, and random appearances of characters from Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth are of much help to a man who has lost his job, his flat, and the fairy who used to be his best friend. It is left to the Goblin King to take pity on Peter and get him to Neverland in time to stop an unfortunate wedding. You’ve probably guessed by now who gets to be the baby that the King takes as his reward.
Creaky plot apart, Peter Pan’s Labyrinth is loaded with sparkling gifts for the audience. The biggest gift is Dan Wye as Bowie, aka the Goblin King, himself. Wye almost steals the entire show. He’s too smart to play the role as pure drag, however. What we get instead is a very elegant, ironic performance all dressed up as an entertainer who can sing beautifully. It does honour to King Goblin, and it’s just Bowie-like enough to make us remember Ziggy and hope he’s somewhere cool, enjoying Wye’s performance. Wye has some serious competition in the trio of the Sleeping Trees, naturally. James Dunnell-Smith, John Woodburn and Joshua George Smith take on the roles of Wendy, Captain Hook, and Peter — and a whole host of unexpected cameos as well. The usual comedy mayhem ensues, and the audience is invited to join in often.
Peter Pan’s Labyrinth is a fun night out—not for the family perhaps, but the Sleeping Trees also have a family friendly show, Little Red Robin Hood, coming to the Battersea Arts Centre later on in the holiday season. In the meantime, you and your friends will get lots of pleasure from singing along with The Goblin King, and enjoying some fabulously punny cocktails at the bar.
“All the necessary components are there … I could just do with a little more amazement and a little less explanation”
Shotgun Carousel’s reputation for outlandish and stunningly executed immersive events far precedes their current show, Red Palace. After last year’s outrageously decadent Divine Proportions, I was fully prepared for an evening of hedonistic debauchery, expertly implemented to lavish excess.
he concept (Laura Drake Chambers) is strong from the start, and all-encompassing: There is a prophesy known across the land that after a thousand days on the throne, the tyrant prince will come to a bloody end. But the prince has no intention of giving up his rule and instead he’s throwing a party on the very day this prophecy should come to pass. Dress code is “your best ball attire and a mask to match” ( don’t worry, you can borrow a mask at the box office). It really is very effective to walk in to a dimly lit room full of masked faces, even if you know most of those are your fellow audience members.
For those who decide to indulge, dinner is served before the main event in a gallery overlooking the hoi polloi. MasterChef semi-finalist Annie McKenzie has whipped up a true feast – I’ll be thinking about that sticky honey soda bread with whipped rosemary butter for days to come, and I only wish I’d snuck in some tupperware for a little more of that rich, crispy shallot tarte tatin.
Performances are promised throughout dinner, but instead we’re occasionally introduced to a character from the main show’s narrative who we’ll no doubt encounter again later in the evening. This is a little disappointing: A performance suggests something of a spectacle and instead we have a preview of a show we’re already signed up to see. The cast themselves are magnificently adorned (Maeve Black) in gothic glamour, and they each play their parts with impressive commitment, even when hassled by substandard audience banter.
The show itself, directed by Celine Lowenthal, takes over the majority of The Vaults, sending the audience sprawling across various nooks and crannies throughout the venue. Initially there’s a sense that we might wander casually from room to room, making discoveries for ourselves, but after the first, we’re shepherded from one spot to the other to observe various necessary parts of the evening’s main plot.
The aesthetics don’t disappoint. Every space has been lovingly crafted to create vastly different atmospheres in each: Snow (White), styled as Barbie Madonna, is throwing a very sad birthday party in her sickly pink boudoir; Gretel (of the famous brother and sister duo) hosts an illegal cabaret with bathtub gin to boot; Red (Riding Hood) hides in the dark, dank forest, plotting her revenge against the prince. But concepts aren’t quite taken to their fabulous potential so within reach. Instead there’s a slight amateur fiddliness to it all, causing a lag between the evening’s tent-pole performances, and slightly sapping the fun out of it as the audience shuffles from one room to the next.
All the necessary components are there: stunning designs, exquisite food, engrossing performances and a well thought out concept. I could just do with a little more amazement and a little less explanation. No need to continuously force feed us the plot, we just want to have a radically decadent unicorn of an evening. Whilst for most that would be too much to ask, it’s what we’ve come to expect from Shotgun Carousel, and on this occasion they’ve just missed the mark.