The Theatre Royal Stratford East pantomime has always featured a degree of experimentation. That’s part of its appeal. It might not always work, but its willingness to play with structure and form, subvert convention and challenge stereotypes, moves the genre forward in necessary ways. That’s certainly the case with this year’s Sleeping Beauty.
Sarah A Nixon and Mark Chatterton, the writing team responsible for the Liverpool Everyman’s regular Christmas show, deliver a very different take on the classic story.
Ericka Posadas plays an adventuress princess armed with a bow and arrow and some killer moves. Anthony Rickman is a much more complex Prince than is usual too, initially appearing as a henchman for Josephine Melville’s malevolent Mautitious Le Vicious.
More traditional comedy is provided by Joshua Elliott as King Percy and Shaun Prendergast as Queen Pearl; their humour occasionally jars with the progressive and increasingly complex story.
Matthew Xia’s production loses its way in the second act and the whole thing becomes as convoluted as a particularly knotty episode of Doctor Who. Where the first half is all fairies, fart jokes and the beginnings of a gutsy romance, the second is full of time travel and full-on dystopian nightmare.
The real star of the show is designer Lily Arnold. She has created a stunning and diverse array of settings and costumes that perfectly complement the occasionally over-complicated story.