I called into The Egg early in the day to collect my ticket. The café/ticket office was a scream – literally teaming with little ones. Ah! get ’em into the theatre culture early, I thought. But once you’ve done that a supply of good shows needs to follow on. This one was a beauty. Treated as a musical comedy the archetypal nature of the story held together for a wide, contemporary audience themes of threat, loss, heroic quest and triumph over of dark magic.
An energetic cast danced, sang and clambered their way through and over the little auditorium and set to the delight – more screams – of the audience. I particularly enjoyed Crystal Condie’s virile performance as the wicked creature who torments the highly aspirational miller’s daughter ‘Emily’, played by Iris Roberts. This display of female force was matched in comic skill by the clowns of the piece, the hapless miller -Stephen Leask, and goofy King – Richard Lowe.
The production had a lavishness reminiscent of the Victorian theatre with live music (I would love to be able to see the musicians in future productions, space permitting), well-tailored and colorful costumes (the slick, black leather, punk style suit of Rumpelstiltskin could well appear in Bath fashion week) but most of all the quality of the rhyming words and lyrics introduced a level of imaginative stretch that we no longer associate with family entertainment.
Where the diction may have dazzled some the clear direction, from Lotte Wakeham, action and choreography made the narrative clear to all but I did feel at times that the production had to work hard to get back the attention of the younger members of the audience; which it did successfully using some panto style interactions.
I thought this a charming family show and a good alternative to panto although it offers a traditional story, turned somewhat on its head, and shares some comic elements. And, I loved the touch of Victorian macabre mixed with contemporary pyrotechnics at the end, when we get to the climax of the story – the ‘wicked little man’ venting his fury at being discovered – in this production Rumpelstiltskin literally exploded, showering the audience with red feathers! It made me want to laugh and scream all at the same time. Delicious. ★★★★☆ Vicky Vatcher 2/12/14