THE EMPEROR’S NEW CLOTHES – Everyman Studio, Cheltenham

REVEALExpecting to see the emperor in the altogether, I arrived at the Everyman Studio Theatre, together with around thirty 4 and 5 years-olds. It’s an hour long show, aimed at pre-school ages.

The idea of “the emperor’s new clothes” is of course well known, but here it has been turned into a lively moral tale. There are brightly coloured sets and in the opening minutes, no end of laughter from the audience during lots of dropping of cardboard boxes. A cheeky parrot puppet acts as fashion consultant to Mrs Anderson, an insecure lady, whose boxes have to be shifted by a father and son removal team. She, like the emperor in the fable, feels that she will not be loved or respected unless she is constantly changing from one lavish outfit into another.

Emperor'sNewClothes- Richard 1The parallel stories of Mrs Anderson and the Emperor’s foolishness interweave with ease and Mrs Anderson’s extensive collection of evening gowns is swiftly transformed into the emperor’s glittering cape.

With my inner child always floating very close under the surface I enjoyed myself but also took pleasure in seeing 4 year-old kids able to follow the stories in which everyday objects turn into something magic.

Ultimately, The Emperor’s New Clothes has a message: don’t run with the pack just because everybody else tells you to, decide what is right for yourself and have the confidence to stand up for your own opinions.

WEAVER 2Nicholas J Rose portrays the cheating weaver with delicious slyness. Camille Cowe struts around, playing in turn the eccentric Mrs Anderson, a messenger and the bawdy companion of the fraudulent weaver. The excellent Richard Curnow transforms from removal man to emperor with quixotic elegance, despite the fact that at times all he has to impress is an old overall with a glittering halter neck evening gown slung around his shoulders to denote his imperial status. A hat which kept dropping its feathers delighted the children in the audience. For parents who may worry about the ‘reveal’, the emperor keeps on his vest, boxer shorts, socks, hat and shoes. For me though, the highlight of the show came when Richard Curnow asked one of the children to help. He picked on a tiny boy with a head full of curls which the constantly interfering parrot introduced as Gordon, only to be severely reprimanded by the 5 year-old that his name was not Gordon, but Ulysses.

The Emperor’s New Clothes is great hour’s worth of entertainment to introduce the tiny-tots to theatre; they can all too easily become overwhelmed in the main house.     ★★★★☆   Astrid Burchardt