book and lyrics by Matt Harvey music by Thomas Hewitt Jones.
The Egg Bath Theatre Royal Sawclose BA1 1ET To 4 January 2014.
Runs 1hr 50min One interval.
TICKETS: 01225 823409.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 4 December.
Gently persuasive retelling of a traditional tale.
Of all the villains in all the traditional stories from all the countries of Europe, the Grimm Brothers’ Rumpelstiltskin seems one of the most hard-done-by. Surely, after three nights’ hard work turning straw into gold he’s earned a reward as much as any questing hero-prince.
Though he breaks one of the deepest human bonds, asking a mother to surrender her child, it’s only when she has no jewels left to pay for his work. Did Emily expect to have her life saved three times for nothing?
What makes him tick? It’s a story that could be morally angled a number of ways. This new musical adaptation make the moral dimension so straight there’s little of an angle to be detected. Both Emily’s father, a miller, and the young King are foolish and make arrogant assumptions in their over-assurance. But the edges are softened, for one is bluff, the other handsome, giving Crystal Condie’s androgynous, spine-backed and dark-coated figure bears little chance against them.
Lotte Wakeham’s lively production uses all parts of The Egg auditorium – audience and balcony included – with moments of non-threatening audience involvement incorporated for young people, matched by a friendly performance manner that helps ensure members of the 7+ audience will feel secure.
As does Thomas Hewitt Jones’s score. It’s pleasantly melodic, with a tendency to set the first part of a lyric’s line with a rhythmic pattern on a repeated note before delivering the later syllables with melodic variety.
Colin Falconer’s set is more suggestive of mill than palace, which prevents it becoming distracting, and he finds a simple way to show the increasing amounts of gold Rumpelstiltskin makes from straw each night, as successive mornings find larger amounts, each bound like a sheaf, on the stage.
There may be more psychological ambiguities in the story than the creators of this version develop. But if they settle for comic folly among the male authority figures (father/Mill-owner and King), they also show a clear Green Party ancestor in Iris Roberts’ sympathetic Emily, edged with a fairytale simplicity of intention, while providing an enjoyable and gently thoughtful experience.
Emily: Iris Roberts.
The Miller: Stephen Leask.
The King: Richard Lowe.
Rumpelstiltskin: Crystal Condie.
Director: Lotte Wakeham.
Designer: Colin Falconer.
Lighting: Derek Anderson.
Sound: Andy Graham.
Musical Director: Malcolm Newton.
Choreographer: Cressida Carré.