Once upon a time in Hackneytonia, Sleeping Beauty Tahlia was born and received three gifts from her fairy godmothers. But the evil fairy Carabosse (Sharon D Clarke, in baddest gyal mode) cursed Tahlia with death on her 18th birthday. A good fairy transforms this curse into a sleep of 100 years — that’s of course unless the kiss of true love can save Tahlia from her fate.
The Sleeping Beauty mashup at Hackney Empire is the latest in a long line of award-winning productions at what’s acknowledged as London’s best pantomime spot.
It features all the usual fun and hijinks: audience interaction (watch out front row!), talking animals, impressive puppet monsters, a panto dame in the form of Gavin Spokes’ saucy Nanny Nora and a sappy romance that doesn’t quite turn out as planned… Of course, love and good times win in the end.
Creators Susan McKenna and Steve Edis have cooked up another theatrical buffet with broad appeal — we especially enjoyed its African Caribbean flavour, with references to jerk chicken and jollof rice.
The kids laughed loudest at Darren Hart howling and bogling up a storm as Ikoboo the wolverine/chef. They also loved Hackney panto regular Kat B as Denzil the dragon who’s lost his puff.
The set, described as ‘Game of Thrones meets Narnia meets panto’ is well crafted and provides a fitting backdrop to the leads who are fantastic.
Sharon D Clarke has some serious pipes, raising the hairs on your neck, at times threatening to blast through Hackney Empire’s star-spangled ceiling. Wayne Perrey makes a swoon-worthy Prince Gabriel and Tahlia is performed with girl power grit by Alexia Khadime, who’s earned her stripes in West End hits like The Lion King.
This being 2016, there were tons of jokes about Brexit and Trump (one likening him to a fart got an extra cheer), as well as musical homages to Bowie, Prince and even Hamilton the musical. We left the theatre dancing to the Trolls hit ‘Can’t Stop the Feeling’.
Sleeping Beauty sends a hopeful message about embracing difference, at a time when anti-immigrant sentiment sweeps across Europe and beyond. Within the walls of the Hackney Empire, it’s the magical population that are feared and shunned by some… at least until everybody learns to live (and sing) in harmony. The journey towards acceptance of these ‘magicals’ creates a poignant metaphor. After all, what our world needs is less hate, more magic.
Sleeping Beauty (Babes Review)
Ezra, age 10
‘Sleeping Beauty remastered. It was a really funny show. I thought it was suitable for any age although babies probably wouldn’t understand. Also the dragon might be a bit much for some children. It’s the first pantomime I’ve ever seen and boy was it great! I just have one question: why do you always have a Dame in a pantomime? They altered a lot of the traditional story, for examples (SPOILER ALERT) the Prince was captured and the Princess rescued him… and the true love kiss was from her Nanny!
I loved all the music, I particularly liked the part where they dabbed. My favourite character had to either be the Dark Fairy (Carabosse) or Denzil the Dragon. I would recommend the show to anyone, even if you’re not a particularly happy person it will hopefully lighten your mood. I liked how they used modern day names like Hackneytonia, Westminsteria, Homertonia and I also liked how they used a bit of modern jokes like talking about Arsenal and Arsenal fans. Rating: 5 stars mate!’
Jed, age 7
‘Amazing show! Carabosse had a very good (wicked) laugh and I liked the music. My favourite characters were Denzil and Ikoboo because they were funny and they taught us a song. I also liked Prince Gabriel although he wasn’t my favourite. I liked Denzil’s costume and Ikoboo’s too. I liked it when Tahlia was fighting Carabosse. Age rating: 3, because they might be afraid when Carabosse turns into a dragon. I’d give 5 stars for the show and I think the message is choose what you want to be!’