Stratford Upon Avon
The Boy in the Dress: Adapt Mark Ravenhill from the novel by David Walliams. Music and Lyrics by Robbie Williams, Guy Chambers & Chris Heath.
RSC Main House
Runs: 2h 30m, one interval, until 8 March 2020
Box Office: 01789331111
Review: Rod Dungate, 7th Dec 2019
This is a brilliantly entertaining and resonant production of an important children’s book.
The Boy in the Dress tells the story of 12 year-old star striker, Dennis, who becomes interested in fashion and through that, discovers liberation in wearing a dress. Dennis’s peers have difficulty in coming to terms with this turn of events.
It may be that current thinking is catching up with David Walliams’s ground-breaking thinking; this in no way blunts the debates within the story, nor weakens the power of this adaptation and its ability to promote discussion among its young audience – and even older audiences! For this is a play about freedom, collective action, and the right indeed the need to be true to oneself.
For the last two years the RSC has produced David Edgar’s expansive adaptation of A Christmas Carol. This year, the production is scaled back. A clever choice – it does not sit in competition with Carol; moreover, it results in a children’s drama with songs within a scale the children can relate to.
And all this within a totally joyous and theatrical event.
Extremely strong performances throughout. Difficult to speak of the young actors for Dennis (the protagonist) and Darvesh (Dennis’s best friend) as there are four possible players for each. If they are all as good as each other, then judging by the pair I saw, you are in for a treat. There is a genuineness in the playing that completely draws you in. Dennis’s fashion role-model, Lisa James (shared between 3 young actors), shares the same genuine and unfussy quality. Forbes Masson as the horrible headmaster, is suitable comic-style mean. Natasha Lewis as Darvesh’s endearing and dotty mother, is a delight throughout – and she has a killer line, but I’m not giving that one away!
Rufus Hound (Dennis’s father) is sparingly used. His astounding ability to reach our hearts enables this character’s emotional journey to move us at turning points of the story – and deeply in a way that takes us by surprise.
Robert Jones’s scenography captures a children’s view of the world, and has a few magic tricks to delight.
Gregory Doran, master of classical textual analysis, appears to delight in the theatrical freedom Mark Ravenhill’s adaptation offers, without compromising for a second, his political view of the world.
Ben Jonson likened a great production to a great banquet that you enjoy long after the banquet is ended. Enjoy this Yuletide repast.
Dennis: Oliver Crouch, Jackson Laing, Tom Lomas, Toby Mocrei
Dad: Rufus Hound
Mum: Charlotte Wakefield
John: Alfie Jukes/Zachary Loonie
Darvesh: Ethan Dattani, Shivain Kara-Patel, Kassian Shae Ahktar, Arjun Singh Khakh
Darvesh’s Mum: Natasha Lewis
Oddbod: Ben Thompson
Miss Bresslaw: Christina Modestou
Gareth: Alexander Moneypenny
Big Mac: Max Gill
Rory: Ryan Heenan
St Kenneth’s Captain: Jamie Tyler
Raj: Irvine Iqbal
Mr Hawtrey: Forbes Masson
Miss Windsor: Charlotte Wakefield
Lisa James: Asha Banks, Tabitha Knowles, Miriam Nyarko
Louise: Gracy Wylde
Lorna: Charlotte Jaconelli
Maudlin Street Captain: David Birch
Director: Gregory Doran
Designer: Robert Jones
Choreographer: Aletta Collins
Lighting Designer: Mark Handerson
Musical Supervisor and Arrangements: Bruce O’Neil
Musical Director and Arrangements: Alan Williams
Orchestrators: Tome Deering, Guy Chambers
Sound Designers: Paul Groothuis, Tome Marshall
Puppetry Director: Laura Cubitt
Dramaturg: Pippa Hill
Associate Director: Sarah Tipple
Associate Choreogrpaher: Carl Harrison
Associate Musical Director: Laura Bangay
Associate Desginer: Paul Atkinson
Casting Director: Hannah Miller
Children’s Casting Director: Hannah Miller, Barbara Roberts
Company voice and text work: Cathleen McCarron
Oddbod Designer & Maker: Samuel Wyer
Assistant Desginer: Anna Kelsey