“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.
“ShayShay’s writing is undeniably queer and will make any friend of Dorothy proud”
Twenty years after her original trip, Dorothy – now non-binary, going by Doro-they or Dor to their friends (Lily Downes) – has returned to Oz to find an abysmal state of affairs. The Good Witch (Grace Kelly Miller) – Kelly, born in Oz, thus, Kelly Ozborn – is in the running for power but a great blizzard threatens to freeze everyone in a matter of hours. Dor finds themselves teaming up with old friends Scarecrow (Sara Nelson), Tin (Fizz Sinclair) and Lion (Milla Sutton) once again to save their beloved Oz by hunting down the assumed perpetrator The Wicked Witch of the West (Fèyi Wey). Puns and innuendo abound, The Witches of Oz – written and directed by ShayShay – treats its audience to a wickedly talented cast who offer singing, dancing and comedy all in equal strength.
The pop culture references are rife from The Wicked Witch’s name Adele Dazeem (an infamous faux pas by John Travolta as he tried to pronounce Idina Menzel) to Tin and Lion’s romantic duet of Take a Chance on Me as they walked across tables like Julie Walters in Mamma Mia. ShayShay’s writing is undeniably queer and will make any friend of Dorothy proud. The dialogue never misses a beat and any opportunity for a joke is taken. However, The Witches of Oz does not lack a message and behind all the ridiculousness the phrase ‘everything’s on a spectrum’ crops up time and time again whether this in relation to gender identity or morality. Climate change denial is also at the centre of the show as well as a call to listen to experts now rather than when it’s too late. These difficult topics are treated with good humour but still remain poignant.
The costumes (Alex Clow) are simply fantastic, and Tin looks particularly phenomenal in a full silver getup. The outfits and make-up are incredibly playful and creative with distinct personalities for each character. The sound and lighting design (Daffyd Gough and Clancy Flynn respectively) are equally great. The whole team does well to scale up the production from the small room where the room begins to the large room with two layered stages for its latter half. The songs chosen – both as dance tracks and for the cast to perform – are campy and fun and are sure to get the audience on their feet.
For an extra fee, audience members are able to enjoy the show with a three-course dinner that is vaguely themed around the film. Beginning with sweetcorn puree and corn bread to represent the yellow brick road, what follows is a buffet style selection of chicken and various greenery in homage to the Emerald City for main and an apple crumble – green, again – for dessert. You are also treated to an appetizer at entrance – a spicy piece of broccoli which – you guessed it – is green. It is a shame that each course is not in some way related to the Dorothy’s trio of companions or make reference to other iconic moments in the film – a candy cane for the Wicked Witch of the East’s socks perhaps, a tomato dish for Dorothy’s sparkly red shoes, or some sort of melting dessert à la our verdant antagonist’s famous death. Pleasantly, The Good Witch accompanies the dining experience with some cabaret tunes creating a real convivial atmosphere within the hall.
The Witches of Oz is an absolute riot and it would be impossible to leave without a smile on one’s face. The food is slightly disappointing but is generous in portion and kudos to the team for serving so many people with such swiftness. Overall, if you enjoy drag, cabaret and downright silliness, then this is the show for you.