Chicken Shed Theatre
Reviewed – 30th November 2017
“navigates the line between what is real and what imaginary skilfully”
Chickenshed’s Rapunzel is an utter joy. Ambitious and energetic; a visual and musical beauty, with a strong take home message to celebrate the power of your imagination. I left with a warm glow in my heart and a lasting tingle down my spine. This production is a must-see.
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The cast of talented and dynamic children and adults were always committed and eye-catching. At all points, the stage was active and engaging, and the team of choreographers must be commended for their innovation. From dryads, to gnomes, to spiders and traders, every cluster had a distinct way of moving and communicating. I felt the work behind every performance and every moment, and am filled with respect and awe for the creatives. Cerys Lambert, sixteen-year-old babysitter Hazel and, in her dreams (or her reality…), Rapunzel, played the nuances of her role with grace and warmth. Culminating in ‘I Want It All’, this rendition of Rapunzel focuses on finding yourself, ‘searching, falling, losing, learning’, and is a spot-on contemporary reclamation of traditional, gender-stereotypical fairy tales.
Lucy Sierra’s set, expertly lit by Andrew Caddies, was a dream to behold. Textured walls, secret cubby holes, and Rapunzel’s tower, concealed by netted leaves, all contributed to the atmosphere of discovery, excitement, and subtle darkness, which the story handles bravely. Simon Wells’ costumes were striking, novel and wonderfully varied. This production created so many exquisite pictures: perfectly-timed spotlights during songs; flying lanterns, to which the little boy next to me said ‘wow!’ under his breath; moving seamlessly between small groups of performers to a stage full to the brim; chaotic, but with intention, and always artful. At one moment, Rapunzel’s mesmerising theme, the most memorable of all the music, ‘Sweet the Dream’, washed over the auditorium, and her shape was visible in the tower, lit up behind the leaves. I was immersed in the magical world which Chickenshed concocted.
Lou Stein’s script weaves in and out of sprightly and lilting rhyming verse. The lyrics, which he wrote alongside composer Dave Carey, are occasionally excessive, and the jokes can be a little too knowing. Gemilla Shamruk had magnetic stage presence, though her sexy song was a little jarring, and somewhat disrupted the tone of her evil. But mostly, it was very refreshing to have the content of a traditional story challenged, to include far-reaching references outside of its world, and keep audiences on their toes. Rapunzel is consistently well-paced, and it navigates the line between what is real and what imaginary skilfully, originally and to spine-tingling effect, such that I was left believing in both worlds equally.
To mention the performances I was impressed by would entail listing all the names in the programme; but I particularly enjoyed Will Lawrence and Nathaniel Leigertwood’s tricksy and witty double-act; and Loren Jacobs and Belinda McGuirk’s mythical dryads and their counterparts, who sustained their eerie stature throughout, whilst taking turns to sign the show. Chickenshed created an equal stage for everyone who was on it, and for audiences alike. Though individuals shone, the fabric of the show is woven by the miraculous thing which happens when people of all shapes, sizes and forms of expression come together to make something they believe in.
The electrifying, flawless live band elevated Rapunzel yet further, and Dave Carey’s fantastic orchestration was eclectic and exciting. The audience were riveted and attention never lulled. I am still flicking through the very well assembled programme. Go and see Rapunzel today, and discover ‘what you are made of, and what you can be’!
Reviewed by Eloise Poulton
Photography by Daniel Beacock
is at the Chicken Shed Theatre until 6th January 2018
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