Online via Bristol Old Vic
Reviewed – 19th December 2020
“the laughs and cheers throughout were evidence of a job well done”
Streaming Beauty is an online interactive adult panto. Hosted by the marvellously named Annette Curtains (Tom Marshman), it asks its Zoom attendees to complete silly festive tasks to help wake the eponymous heroine from her slumber, brought on by ‘fingering a prick’. The overarching tone is tongue-in-cheek queer naughtiness, and the show is peppered throughout with knowing pop culture references, with Hymen Bowel (Lotte Allan) presenting The Sex Factor, Angelina Unholy fetish icon (Peter Baker) and the Artist Formerly Known as Prince Charming (Edson Burton) all featuring. Here, as in real life panto, much depends on the gusto and spirit of the audience. More than any other theatrical form, panto really is what you make it. If you walk into the theatre, or switch on your Zoom, ready to contribute and to have a good night then you will. It says much about the resilience both of the form and the COVID-beseiged British audience that the panto spirit was firmly in evidence last night. Given that much of the show is in Zoom Gallery View format, the audience is quite literally on show as much as the performers, and the families, couples and singletons who were in attendance rose to the challenge admirably.
That being said, it does take an effort of will to supply atmosphere whilst staring at a laptop, and the sad reality is that it is impossible to be unaware of the limitations of the small screen in this most rambunctious theatrical form. Peter Baker and Tom Marshman adapted the most successfully to these strictures, by having an awareness of them and playing with close-ups and the edges of the frame. This is clearly a new-found skill in the actor’s arsenal, and, inevitably, some performers have been better able to take up the challenge than others.
Stephanie Kempson (director) and her company Sharp Teeth are clearly at the cutting edge of online theatre, and this panto comes hot on the heels of their successful online interactive Sherlock Holmes show, which also put the audience into breakout rooms and provided them with tasks to fulfil. Whilst being a natural fit for an immersive detective drama, this structure did feel like something of an imposition on the panto format, and this reviewer did pine for more panto and less escape room, but it seems that mine was the minority view, and the rest of last night’s audience clearly relished the games aspect of the evening. It was a full house last night, with 90 people logged in, and the laughs and cheers throughout were evidence of a job well done.
Reviewed by Rebecca Crankshaw
Online via Bristol Old Vic
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