dfp_header_hidden_string

Get our free email newsletter with just one click

Sleeping Beauty review at Hackney Empire, London – ‘explicitly political’

Alexia Khadime and Sharon D Clarke in Sleeping Beauty at Hackney Empire. Photo: Tristram Kenton

As the mutant, rampaging nightmare that is 2016 lumbers into the high-tension wires of another year, leave it to Hackney’s panto to raise the standard for decency, anarchy and joy.

Long-feted as London’s finest pantomime, Hackney Empire’s extravaganza has always been quietly political and unquestionably heart-felt, but this year writer/director/panto-goddess Susie McKenna has nailed her heart up high, in a show that’s sumptuous in its traditions and thrilling in its modernity.

Abundance reigns as we’re treated to both a Bake-Off themed slop-scene and a vine-clad UV sequence, a mini-revolve and even a crowd-pleasing riff on Hamilton to kick the evening off. Alexia Khadime gets to tear up the Perrault songbook as anti-damsel Princess Tahlia, Gavin Spokes is an NHS-championing dame who gives the missing Clive Rowe a run for his money, and Sharon D Clarke tears down the whole house as the evil fairy with a voice that could level a borough.

Hackney stalwart Kat B gets a bit of a rough ride as the less than essential Denzil the Dragon, his dancing skills curtailed by a lumbering costume, but what he lacks in dynamism, Darren Hart makes up for in his turn as pining wolf-man Ikoboo.

Almost every element of Sleeping Beauty is realised to panto perfection, but it’s the fearless and warmly-framed political bent that shines through. From the cheeky anti-Brexit number You Can’t Ask the People What They Think to a central message that’s all about breaking down barriers rather than building walls, Hackney panto isn’t about to take a bad year lying down.

panto-2

We need your help…

When you subscribe to The Stage, you’re investing in our journalism. And our journalism is invested in supporting theatre and the performing arts.

The Stage is a family business, operated by the same family since we were founded in 1880. We do not receive government funding. We are not owned by a large corporation. Our editorial is not dictated by ticket sales.

We are fully independent, but this means we rely on revenue from readers to survive.

Help us continue to report on great work across the UK, champion new talent and keep up our investigative journalism that holds the powerful to account. Your subscription helps ensure our journalism can continue.

Subscribers to The Stage get 10% off The Stage Tickets’ price
Verdict
Superlative festive show that dips into the explicitly political and retrieves pure panto gold
^