Tag Archives: Martin Hooper


Ghosted – Another F**king Christmas Carol


The Other Palace





“It is a rib-tickling celebration of queer culture. The Play That Goes Wrong meets Queer Eye, with a sprinkling of Have I Got News For You”


‘Tis the season of way too many Dickens adaptations, but as you can most likely tell by the subtitle, “Another F***ing Christmas Carol,” this is very much not a standard version of the Christmas classic.

Written by Jon Bradfield and Martin Hooper and directed by Andrew Beckett, the team behind the celebrated adult pantomimes for Above The Stag Theatre, Ghosted may just be my favourite festive show of the year. Hilariously self-aware, it was set firmly in 2022, with pop culture references, political jokes and many, many references to queer culture.

It begins with three carol singers in period dress, holding traditional, Victorian style lanterns. They start singing a beautiful carol, until they are interrupted by Bobbi Cratchitt (played with incredible comic timing by Nikki Biddington), running in late, through the audience, wearing a bright Christmas jumper and reindeer antlers. This riotous beginning brings the story into the present and sets the tone for the whole piece. When the carol singers get chatting about their terrible boss stories (very relatable – we all have one!), Bobbi Cratchitt begins to tell us about Eloisa Scrooge (Natalie Boakye) and three queer ghosts (all hysterically camp, played by Christopher Lane) who give her a makeover on Christmas Eve. The rest of the story loosely follows the plot of A Christmas Carol, with a few surprise twists and turns.

The cast is made up of just four people, switching effortlessly between all the characters, and every member was as strong and hilarious as the rest. Although a standout moment for me was Liam McHugh, switching between playing a mother and son in the same scene. A fantastic ensemble with brilliant chemistry, who all had stunning singing voices. Their creative and sweary updates on classic Christmas carols were sung beautifully, with gorgeous harmonies, along with a hefty dose of F words, and even a few C bombs… it is certainly not a show to bring the children along!

The set (designer David Shields) is a purely white room, with very few props (Isla Rose) or set pieces, meaning a small amount of imagination was required. The costume design was very much the same, a couple of key items for the quick changes between the characters. But there were many jokes made of this, and it became a running gag throughout the piece. Paper chain decorations became the chains around “Jacob Rees-Marley”, and with a few subtle lighting (Oli Matthews) and sound effects (Joel Mulley), the stage became an office, a flat, a dining room, a beach, and even a nightclub smoking area.

It is a rib-tickling celebration of queer culture. The Play That Goes Wrong meets Queer Eye, with a sprinkling of Have I Got News For You – heart-warming, without being sickly sweet – it is exactly what is needed in the current climate, and I didn’t stop laughing throughout.



Reviewed on 2nd December 2022

by Suzanne Curley

Photography by Mark Senior


Previously reviewed at this venue:

Millennials | ★★★ | July 2022
Glory Ride | ★★★ | November 2022


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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


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