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Rapunzel: Hairway to Heaven (Liverpool Everyman)

Liverpool's 'Rock 'n' Roll' panto returns to the Everyman

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Tom Connor (Lord Alistair Banister) and Marianne Benedict (Poisonella)
© Robert Day

See one panto, and you've seen them all...oh no, you haven't! Every year, somehow, the Everyman comes up with a vividly original take on old favourites. And what a tangled web they weave this time: missing princess; her love rivals; a wicked witch versus fairies and a frisky, risqué double act from Adam Keast and Francis Tucker (so in tune comedy-wise, it almost approaches telepathy) as Rapunzel's ugly sister-style adoptive parents.

Poisonella (Marianne Benedict) and her sidekick, Rapunzel's putative suitor, a wickedly winsome Lord Alistair Banister (Tom Connor), are also refreshingly different baddies; he is more like a droll Prince Charming; she, a regular Scream Queen. Half the time, it seemed the audience did not know whether to boo or cheer them.

As for the costumes, they range from the over-the-top and far away versions of the traditional panto dame to fetching frocks for Rapunzel and the fairies, plus exquisitely bewitching confection for Poisonella. Meanwhile, the Technicolour set has a tower and a cottage, and several doors which do not always open on cue. Indeed, the production revels in improv and there were some excellent ad libs reacting to unexpected audience participation. Outrageous liberties, naturally, are taken with the original story, the dei ex machina being aliens.The tricky bits are helped out by videos and models and the odd bit of stylised mime, with some elements so crafty, they may well become traditions in themselves.

Sam Heywood as Hood acquits himself very well, particularly in song and dance. The rules all state that modern heroines have to include 'feisty' at the top of their CV and Stephanie Hockley's Rapunzel delightfully keeps up the good work. The cast, clearly having a wonderful time, are remarkably versatile giving musical performances and dance sequences that complement the acting.

On occasion the whole thing was so camp, it came complete with tents. But as far as Christmas spirit is concerned, the Everyman's is positively fizzing with energy.

Rapunzel: Hairway to Heaven - Rock 'n' Roll Panto runs at the Liverpool Everyman until 23 January.