“I’ve done Shakespeare, you know,” crows Drew Schofield. His Scouse Corvid (but without Covid, which struck down the production a fortnight ago) would be a scene-stealer, were he not competing with a whole cast of them. Try stealing a laugh from under the nose (or other appendages) of Lindzi Germain, Keddy Sutton or Liam Tobin. These days the Royal Court pantomime is a well-oiled machine of cast members so familiar it’s like watching a Two Ronnie Christmas special. Only with a lot more knob jokes.
This year it’s Sleeping Beauty and creative director Kevin Fearon has pulled off another successful blend of a pantomime classic and, well, Liverpool. The protagonists leave the kingdom of Poundland (yep) and hide out on the ‘Land of Ferries’ until Ora, sleeping beauty herself, is old enough to evade the curse of sleeping forever – didn’t sound to bad to us but we’ve got a 20-month-old.
There’s enough of a framework on which to hang a list of set pieces that simply allow a very talented cast to do their thing. Schofield is always hard to look past: his Crow being pitched somewhere between Knowsley Safari Park and Smokie Mo’s. Stooped, feathered and punctuating every line with a pathetic ‘caww’, he’s a master at the sideways look, the tactical swear and when to go for broke and drop character completely.
It’s perhaps here where the Royal Court panto excels. Those winks to audience, curses towards the audience and full-on address to the audience create a sense of camaraderie, as if the crowd aren’t simply spectators but accomplices, confidantes – everyone is welcome and everyone’s going to have a great time.
Germain is perfectly pitched – ahem – as the villain of the piece. There aren’t many who can carry off an F-bomb aimed at the audience in response to a boo. Tobin gets the chance to run through his superb mimicry of Tommy Cooper, Eric Morecambe, Doddy and – er – Elvis as the King of Poundland. Meanwhile Michael fletcher and Jamie Clarke make a game leading couple. Fletcher’s scenes with Germain – where she tries to make him corpse in a very workplace-unfriendly manner – is an annual highlight but along with Clarke, Germain and the fairy chorus of Sutton, Emma Bispham and Hayley Sheen he brings some serious vocals to the party.
And what a party it is. We could have done without the Black-Eyed Peas and one or two other crowbarred numbers – played by a band stacked at the side of the stage, but when Schofield appears on top of Olivia du Monceau’s clever rotating set to belt out the sax solo from Spandau Ballet’s True it’s a moment both triumphant and deeply silly. Fitting, really.
The Scouse Sleeping Beauty
Royal Court Theatre
Until 22 January
Images by Jason Roberts