Leicester Square Theatre.
Billed as disgusting, vile and vulgar, Sleeping Booty is bursting with all the right ingredients for a very grown-up pantomime.
There’s a flurry of anxious activity on the opening night of Sleeping Booty only minutes before curtain up. With whispers of a backstage accident, there’s been a mercy dash – not to A&E, but to the nearest Ann Summers sex shop. It seems Miss Babs, the blow-up doll who plays a vital role, has burst, and the casting gap must be filled by an understudy who is rushed in and inflated just in time.
Calm restored, the show begins with an MC warm-up from writer and director Stuart Saint, who sets the mood by insisting his passage is left clear.
This is adult pantomime, with a strict over-18s policy, but its playful, raucous mood is thoroughly traditional and the show includes every element of pantomime fun you could hope for – audience participation, silly songs, gorgeously camp costumes and a plot that plays second fiddle to the set pieces.
It’s Saint’s third year at the Leicester Square Theatre’s Lounge, an intimate underground space that’s snug enough to build up an atmosphere fast.
The story, such as it is, is simple. The beautiful young Booty, currently employed as an erotic dancer, would like to get pricked – and not by a needle. But when Fairy Muff’s spell produces the handsome Prince Willie Wontie in silver high-heeled boots and a pink-trimmed frock coat, Booty realises dreams don’t come true that easily, and her quest for love must continue.
Alice Marshall is vibrant and funny as Booty, and holds her own against some determined hecklers. And if you still aren’t sure what twerking is, you will be after seeing her performance. Leon Scott’s confidence and humour as the Prince is a groundrock for the cast. His ‘I Wanna be Like You’ song-and-dance duet with Alexander Beck is superb, with the lead and backing vocals switching seamlessly, and Dalh Haynes’ slick choreography adding to the atmosphere.
Musical Director Nick Barstow has some great voices to work with, not least Paula Masterton as the down-to-earth but magnificently coiffed Fairy Muff, whose cabaret confidence is reflected in her strong solo performances.
And shall we save the best till last? The Evil Mangelina, performed by Miss Dusty ‘O’ (David Hodge), stalks the set like…well, like a thoroughly evil fairy. A towering figure dressed in spikes, spangles and sequins by Twiggy Birmingham, she sneers, she snipes and she makes poor front-row Petra’s life a misery with insults borrowed (ahem) from Dame Edna’s heyday.
So if you hanker after the thrill of youthful trips to a Christmas pantomime, but want a good dollop of sex and spanking served up along the way, head for Leicester Square. Skip the cinemas. You’ll have much more fun at the theatre.
First published on whatsonstage.com