Beowulf, King’s Head Theatre, stage review: ‘Song, dance and quirky humour to light up your festive season’

Julia Mariko Smith as Princess Hrothmund. Photograph: Craig Fuller

Charles Court Opera is back on stage at the King’s Head Theatre for their seventh inimitable boutique panto.

Beowulf provides the narrative skeleton for the 2021 show in which director and writer John Savournin eschews the moral binaries of the traditional Christmas theatre for subtler themes of self-discovery.

The performance starts with a haunting chant in Old English by caped actors on a smoke-filled stage. But it is not long before the characters veer away from the roles assigned to them by medieval mythology, to uproarious effect. Who said that alpha males had to slay mortal enemies in order to wed awaiting princesses? Certainly not many in this upside-down rendition of the ancient tale.

Jennie Jacobs as Grendel’s Mother gives the stand-out performance, portraying a half-hearted ‘baddie’ in a zany array of disguises. And Emily Cairns offers an enchanting Wiglaff, companion to Matthew Kellett’s genial Beowulf. Costuming scrambles period motifs to kit out Julia Mariko Smith’s Princess Hrothmund as the play’s principal action hero, counterpointed by Philip Lee’s Grendel as a soft-furnished monster in search of his identity.

This hugely entertaining production is also stuffed with plenty of song, dance and quirky humour to light up your festive season.

Beowulf runs until 8 January 2022 at the King’s Head Theatre, 115 Upper Street, Islington, N1 1QN.