Tag Archives: Isobel Nicolson

Rapunzel

Rapunzel

★★★★

Watermill Theatre

RAPUNZEL at the Watermill Theatre

★★★★

Rapunzel

“The second act just gets sillier. And the sillier it gets the more we enjoy it.”

 

There’s a joke, in the form of a flowchart, currently doing the rounds of social media about how to work out if it’s Christmas. Is it November? Yes? Then it’s not Christmas. The folks down at the Watermill Theatre have obviously missed this as they seem fully intent on delivering a sleigh-load of festive cheer into the heart of the Newbury woodlands. For them, the season has started. It’s time to forget the dark nights, and the darker state of the nation, and embrace the innocent joy that has been locked away for too long.

Annie Siddons’ “Rapunzel” has something for all the family. But Disney it ain’t. It is not quite Grimm either as it strays somewhat from the original German fairy tale. But still managing to keep the central plotlines fairly intact. We are in the rolling hills of Tuscany – not really known for its dense woodland and trumpet-playing pigs, but you have to suspend disbelief to have any chance at all of keeping up with the story. A story told with heart-warming exuberance by the half dozen actor musicians.

Mother Gothel (Miiya Alexandra) is not so much the wicked witch, but an overprotective mother with good intentions. When she becomes aware that Rapunzel (Tilly-Mae Millbrook) is on the verge of pubescence, her innate, maternal fears kick in. Of course: lock her up to protect her. “Because I love you” she reasons to her bamboozled daughter, and Rapunzel meekly takes it.

Meanwhile – on the other side of the forest the Duchess (Miiya Alexandra again) is practically kicking her two sons (Roddy Lynch’s Paulo and Loris Scarpa’s Patrizio) out of the door. Time to seek adventure. Some sort of sexual stereotyping is going on here, but it’s all so tongue in cheek you grin and bear it. Actually, you grin like the Cheshire Cat. By this time, it’s all wonderfully absurd. You almost expect Graham Chapman to burst in with his Monty Python catchphrase; “Stop that, it’s silly”.

Prince Patrizio is the sensitive, musical, mandolin-strumming one who, having misplaced his brother, hears Rapunzel singing in her tower, discovers a way to climb up… you know how it pans out. He scares her, soothes her, kisses her and, ‘Hey Presto’, this is love. Knowing asides swoop over the kids’ heads to be lapped up by the adults’ more knowledgeable (debatable) and experienced (doubtful) minds.

The script dates back to 2006, when Kneehigh put their inimitable stamp on it. This company respect and replicate the spirit. A few topical references have been added – political, of course – relating to taxes, inflation, chancellors, recession and so forth. “Thank God we’re in a fairy tale and not real life”. The fourth wall, already crumbling now gets pulverised, mainly thanks to the wonderfully hilarious Emma Barclay with her wry delivery and comic flair. The second act just gets sillier. And the sillier it gets the more we enjoy it.

Isobel Nicolson’s set adds to the magic of the evening, cleverly creating the illusion of height on the relatively small stage. The fine ensemble cast weave themselves up, down, above and beneath the rickety spiral staircase. Greenery sprouts and retreats, musical instruments appear and disappear. There’s a fair bit for the performers to think about, and occasionally it gets messy, but it’s a delightful messiness that we are glad to be tangled in.

Like the princes in the forest, you may occasionally lose your way among the anarchic mayhem that is “Rapunzel”. Even the Brothers Grimm had two alternative endings to the tale. This show twists it in another direction still. It is an enchanting show. Oh, and did I say it was silly?

 

 

Reviewed on 21st November 2022

by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Ben Wilkin

 

 

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:

 

Brief Encounter | ★★★ | October 2021
Spike | ★★★★ | January 2022
Whistle Down The Wind | ★★★★ | July 2022

 

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A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol

★★★★

Watermill Theatre

A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol

Watermill Theatre

Reviewed – 5th December 2020

★★★★

 

“a play that leaves its audience with such an infectious sense of joy”

 

A Christmas Carol – it’s a story many of us know so well. Based on Charles Dickens’ novel, the Watermill Theatre’s Christmas production is a charming and moving retelling of the famous tale. “A story is a candle in a dark place,” begins our narrator moments before the candle floats in front of us. We are assured that this tale will be a magical one. When Scrooge’s long dead business partner appears in his bedroom, weighed down by chains, he tells Scrooge that three ghosts will come to him, the ghost of Christmas past, present and Christmas yet to come. Across the course of the evening, Christmas Eve to be specific, the three ghosts visit the miserly Ebeneezer Scrooge to show him what life lived in greed will bring him, and to remind him of how he became the man he is today . This is a story of the human capacity to change for the better and it is a heart-warming watch. Danielle Pearson’s adaptation, directed by Georgie Straight, pivots around this sense of a second chance. It is a touching and universal story, full of the harshness of life and the joy of it.

The show is a two-hander, and our two actors Pete Ashmore and Tilly-Mae Millbrook handle their many parts with ease. Ashmore’s Scrooge undergoes an incredibly moving transformation, from the gruff, merciless man we first meet to the joyfully energetic and generous figure the play ends with. Millbrook as the Narrator is warm and playful, bringing the audience into her tale. Between them they also play everyone else, made unrecognisable by a change of accent and a floral scarf. Designed by Emily Barratt, each costume detail denoting a different character is vivid and sufficient.

The set, which features dark bricks and hanging washing, is designed by Isobel Nicholson. A piano is disguised as Bob Cratchitt’s desk branded with Scrooge and Marley’s sign. Several of the ghosts are created through set – a lantern reimagined and a cloaked shape falling from the ceiling. Creating such a multi-role show with only two actors could have proved a real challenge, but the show has been conceived in such a way – through script, costume and design, that we never want for more actors than we have onstage. Clever sound design by Tom Marshall creates the sense of bustling streets and heightens each ghost’s arrival. Harry Armytage’s lighting design is equally clever: two windows at the back of the stage are lit and filled with silouhettes from the cobwebs of Camden to groups of party guests gathered together.

The show is punctuated with beautiful harmonised renditions of classic Christmas songs which the actors sing and accompany themselves, on violin, clarinet and piano. Both are accomplished players and Ashmore’s violin playing is particularly impressive and evocative.

Every element of this show is lovely, well made, detailed, delivered by a faultless cast and creative team. The Watermill Theatre handles the Covid-19 restrictions fantastically and patiently, and it is a pleasure to be back in a theatre again, especially to see a play that leaves its audience with such an infectious sense of joy and the possibility of human nature.

 

Reviewed by Amelia Brown

Photography by Pamela Raith

 


A Christmas Carol

Watermill Theatre until 3rd January

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Murder For Two | ★★★★ | February 2019
Macbeth | ★★★ | March 2019
Amélie | ★★★★★ | April 2019
The Importance Of Being Earnest | ★★★★ | May 2019
Assassins | ★★★★★ | September 2019
The Wicker Husband | ★★★★★ | March 2020
Lone Flyer | ★★★★ | October 2020

 

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