A selection of my extended family went today to The Theatre Royal, Stratford East to see their panto production of Beauty and the Beast. It was really, really good.
It had all the essential panto elements: the dame was on the edge of too lewd (but just on the right edge, and very engaged with the kids in the audience as well as the grownups); there was a principal boy (who wasn’t actually the principal, but that’s fine) (ooh, and she’s doing a PhD in performance and disability!); the baddies were great; the singalong and shoutout bits were great. There was even (only essential if you’re from exactly where I’m from) someone dangling in the air.
The script and adlibbing were interesting, funny, accessible and not patronising. The making it work for a modern context (and still be fairytale) was done really, really well.
(Unusually for a pantomime) the baddies had understandable motivations and that allowed happy endings all round, not just for the goodies.
There was a plot strand lifted straight from Buffy, but that’s fine because it was so well done.
What I loved about it, though (and this only worked because the rest was done so well) was that it was totally upfront pro-queer, pro-immigration, anti-racist, anti-transphobia. I didn’t have to switch off any of my sensitivities – it was with me all the way. Thank you, Theatre Royal Stratford East and all who sail in you.