Hackney Empire, London – until 8 January 2017
Hackney Empire’s award-winning Susie McKenna has created a brand new take on the fairy-tale story of Sleeping Beauty, bringing the classic yarn up to date for this year’s pantomime.
Set in the enchanted land of Hackneytonia, the kingdom is celebrating the birth of their King and Queen’s new child, Princess Tahlia. However, the evil fairy Carabosse is to cast an evil spell over the Princess that will change her life forever. The show’s set design (great work from Lottie Collett) is vibrantly colourful, almost resembling a children’s picture book and compliments this high energy performance every step of the way.
Sharon D Clarke‘s Carabosse is devilishly brilliant as she plays the part with a wonderful Caribbean feel, her voice dripping with soul. Clarke brings a sassy fire to the performance and despite playing the classic panto villain, she cannot help but be entirely loved. The smooth velvety tones of Prince Gabriel (Wayne Perrey) are a joy to listen to as he plays the role with an appropriate and princely intensity.
Unsurprisingly, Alexia Khadime’s performance as Princess Tahlia is, much like her voice, powerful and soaring. Khadime brings a lovely balance between the generic ‘Princessiness’ of the genre, and the tomboyish nature of her reinvented character. Flipping some of the traditional panto expectations, Thalia desperately wants to be a warrior. She challenges her gender stereotype, showing that there is more than enough room in a traditional panto for an all ‘Girl Power’ Damsel waiting to unleash her inner hero.
The show is stolen however by Gavin Spokes‘ Dame Nanny Nora. From the moment he first enters, on a mobility scooter and singing A Spoonful Of Sugar, Spokes has the audience eating from the palm of his hand. Just rude enough, clever, funny and a hell of a voice. There were a fair few topical jokes in the show, a highlight being the duet between Spokes and Tony Whittle’s King entitled Never Ask The People What They Think …. nuff said!
Carl Paris’ choreography is tight, with a well drilled ensemble as is Mark Dickman’s musical handling of Steve Edis’ score, as yet again McKenna and her team at Hackney give London a festive feast of a panto with all the trimmings. Oh yes they do!
Runs until 8th January 2017Reviewed by Charlotte DarcyPhoto credit: Bob Workman