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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

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Meet the Queen of Gay Panto MATTHEW BALDWIN!

As the quick-witted star of London’s biggest and gayest adult pantomimes, MATTHEW BALDWIN has gained a big following, his performances being praised as “sublime” by the Guardian, “wonderful” by Time Out and “exquisite” by theatre bible The Stage.

We asked him some questions between performances of his new extravaganza, Sleeping Beauty Takes A Prick!

This is your seventh Dame for the team. What lures you back to Dame roles and how does it compare to being in a regular play or musical? 
Well, other than for the money obviously – a million pounds a week, which is slightly less than Julian Clary gets – I do it because of the grown-up boys and girls and non-binaries that come to watch the show. Our audience is really special and there’s nothing more fun in the whole world than making people laugh.

In Sleeping Beauty Takes A Prick you’re playing a queen, Queen Gertrude of Slutvia.
Yes! Gertrude is a big-hearted monarch who has a baby with her husband the King who she
loves, but then the king is cruelly murdered by his evil brother so she marries him instead. If that sounds a little bit familiar, theatrically, it’s because it is.

There are pantomimes in palladiums and pantomimes in pubs. What can people expect from Sleeping Beauty Takes A Prick?

The best of both actually. We started doing these pantomimes in a room above a pub, and
we still make shows that thrive on the special relationship with the audience, which have that level of chaos and danger. But now we’ve got much bigger production values so we can make the most of the pantomime traditions that we inhabit.

Sleeping Beauty Takes A Prick is a gay pantomime and an adult pantomime. Can you say more about that? 
An adult pantomime is one with absurdly rude jokes that you can go to without being
surrounded by your own or others’ screaming children, and a gay pantomime is a
pantomime that wants to have sex with other pantomimes.

Matthew Baldwin and company in Sleeping Beauty Takes A Prick – photo by Oli Sones

Sleeping Beauty doesn’t have much story to it. How does that become a full stage
I don’t want to give away all the magic, but obviously, things are helped along by fairies, a
horse, a touch of sci-fi, some naughty songs and a number of extraordinary circumstances.

You built a following when you made adult pantos for the now-closed LGBT+ venue Above The Stag Theatre. What did fans love about those shows and what are you enjoying about playing in a bigger theatre?

Well, frankly I used to get a lot of sexual interest from the Above The Stag crowd who were
mainly interested in my buns. And that persists to this day! I’m just as attractive, to everyone across the spectrum of identity, but on a bigger stage and thus even more potent. With bigger crowds, there’s more of them to please so I have my work cut to accommodate them but you know what, I’m a trouper and I do my best.

Matthew Baldwin and company in Sleeping Beauty Takes A Prick – photo by Oli Sones

Pantos mix verbal comedy, slapstick, songs, and visual gags. What’s it like putting it together? 
A dream. Andrew Beckett, our director, runs the best rehearsal room I’ve ever worked in. It’s friendly, it’s open, we spend two weeks making mistakes, making each other laugh, making each other not laugh, and then working out what works and what doesn’t. And when you go into a rehearsal process with material as strong as that which Jon and Martin write, you’re on to a winner.

You get two days off for Christmas before getting back on stage on Boxing Day. How will you be spending them?
I’ll be locked in the costume cupboard with a cracker and a single candle.

What’s your favourite Christmas carol, Christmas film and Christmas tradition? 
My favourite Christmas carol is Carole Todd, our choreographer. My favourite film is the one
with Dudley Moore, I don’t fucking know what it’s called. Albert? No, Santa Claus the Movie. And my favourite Christmas tradition is the one where you get people that hate each other, lock them in a house, turn the heating up really high and then everybody has a fight.

Sleeping Beauty Takes A Prick continues to play at the Charing Cross Theatre throughout Christmas until 13 January. Tickets: www.sleepingbeautytakesaprick.com

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