The annual panto at Above The Stag is really in a league of its own, not just on the LGBT+ scene but across all the adult pantos in London. In terms of production, performance and scope this is impressive stuff.
Pinocchio – No Strings Attached written by Jon Bradfield and Martin Hooper is an original show based on the classic stories of Carlo Collodi, with passing nods to the popular Disney film. Set in the small Italian town of Placenta this is really the story of Geppetta, a puppet maker, reimagined here as the panto dame played by Matthew Baldwin and her niece Cornetta (Christy Bellis) making a new life for themselves in hiding after being wrongly accused of stealing a painting, The Cheeks of Uranus, from The Pope… yes it’s quite ‘Allo ‘Allo! in places. The action starts in traditional panto style with Fatima, a fairy, setting the story in rhyming style, in a confident and engaging performance by Dami Olukoya before we meet the villain of the piece, Figaro, played with foxy style by Christopher Lane.
Following some ‘magical intervention’ a wooden puppet comes to life, answering Geppetta’s wish and we meet Pinocchio played with engaging charm by Jared Thompson. Obviously it all goes wrong, we meet more characters, Pinocchio runs away to the fair, there’s a sperm whale, obviously and the show races to its satisfying climax packed along the way with all the ‘He’s behind you’ magic you could want. The sets by David Shields are stunning, original songs by Jon Bradfield are impressive, I especially the liked the semi tragic comedy of ‘I’d Rather Have Strings’.
The script is sharp and rude without ever being crude and the whole cast impressive, especially Matthew Baldwin who once again gives us a masterclass in the understated Dame, he rarely misses a beat, but there’s just enough of a hint of anarchy below the surface to make it a stand out performance. Excellent fun all round.
Photos by PBG Studios