book and lyrics by Anthony Drewe music by George Stiles.
Royal and Derngate (Royal Theatre) Guildhall Walk NN1 1DP To 3 January 2010.
Runs 2hr 15min One interval.
TICKETS: 01604 624811.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 9 December.
Hooray for Honk!.
Here’s something different for a winter’s tale. And finding a place when you’re different is the heart of both Hans Andersen’s ‘Ugly Duckling’ and George Stiles and Anthony Drewe’s modern musical version. They humanise the story with recognisable adult attitudes (Ida recommending her new-born ducklings take a good look at their father as they won’t see him again for some time) while there’s plenty of animal interaction to appeal to any age.
Andrew Panton’s Northampton revival is happily entertaining while acknowledging serious undercurrents for older spectators. David McGranaghan’s camp Scottish cat, enjoying the prospect of his catch, might be sexual predator as well as hungry feline, while cat and hen Queenie and Bewick form a contented couple living in a human house until Cat provides a new tug-of-love feline attraction.
But the main physical attraction comes as Ugly finds first sympathy with swan Penny, then after his transformation from dowdily-clad schoolboy to silky swan, love. And, beside its songs’ attractive energy, Honk! is full of humour and adventure, admirably caught in Panton’s inventive staging. Perils come comically – Ugly spreadeagled in a saucepan as Cart prepares him for lunch – and seriously: Penny suspended as in water, tangled among a fishing-line.
A particularly adept group of the children’s cast provide a sharp reminder of how excluded anyone ‘different’ can feel, in their sharp glances and Stiles’ biting musical phrase for “Look at Him”, while Fiona Dunn creates the complexity of Ida’s sympathy for her unusual offspring, alongside moments of casual disregard and maternal anxiety.
Adam Barlow catches Ugly’s naivety, childhood optimism and gradual learning about the world’s danger and unkindness. The joyous energy of Panton’s production is played on Jason Denvir’s colourful set – its hillside implying a world elsewhere, its duck-pond filled with cracking eggs, then opening to reveal Cat’s kitchen, with oversized chairs introduced later for the human home, across which Bewick and Queenie cavort. Denvir’s pastel shades are enhanced through the seasons by Simon Wilkinson’s luscious lighting. Both provide major contributions to ensuring the story and its human world in animal form are treated to a vigorous, colourful outing.
Ugly: Adam Barlow.
Grace, Lowbutt, Dot, Bewick: Marilyn Cutts.
Drake, Greylag: Andrew Dennis.
Ida: Fiona Dunn.
Turkey, Barnacles, Bullfrog, Father Swan, Darmer: Mark McDonnell.
Cat: David McGranaghan.
Maureen, Snowy, Queenie, Mother Swan, Old Woman: Joanna Redman.
Henrietta, Penny, Pinkfoot, Maggie Pie: Jennifer Rhodes.
Ducklings & Froglets: Morgan Jackson, Harriet Aitken, Oliver Evans, Jaaziah Gordon-Douglas, Cameron Brooke-Williams, Cameron Samuels, Nadine Francis, Bewlay Stanton/Emma Smith, Dillon Carpenter, Eleanor Morrison, Jasmine Elliot, Corey Knight, Louis Miranda-Smedley, Miranda Spencer-Pearson, Aaron Patel/ Jessica Massey, Jarzinho Rapoz, Erin White, Gemma Harvey, Joshua Stojanovic, Ross Jeffries, Demi Rixon, Aaron Patel or Bewlay Stanton.
Director/Choreographer: Andrew Panton.
Designer: Jason Denvir.
Lighting: Simon Wilkinson.
Sound: David Middleton.
Musical Director: Peter Woollard.
Aerial Coach: Robyn Simpson.
Assistant director: Gary Quinn.
Design assistant: Elizabeth Charles.