November 28-January 23
Rapunzel: Hairway to Heaven
See one panto, and you’ve seen them all…oh no, you haven’t!
Every year, somehow, the Everyman comes up with an original take on old favourites, serves it up gleefully with all manner of add-ons, and basically takes the gloom out of the Brothers Grimm.
And what a tangle web they weave this time: missing princess; love rivals (villian turned hero, and villain who’s just SO cute); wicked witch versus fairies, led by a sparkling Martina Isibor as Stardust; ugly sisters, well, Rapunzel’s adoptive parents, the Greens, starring that amazingly toothsome twosome, Adam Keach and Francis Tucker, so in tune as far as comedy is concerned, it magically approaches telepathy.
But wait, what’s this? Poisonella (Marianne Benedict) and Rapunzel’s putative suitor, a wicked Lord Alistair Banister (Tom Connor) are dead ringers for our lovely, lively hero and heroine, with bells on: their chemistry has a few other sciences thrown in, not least biology. Not only that, they are worthy successors to Keast and Tucker duo, maybe even destined to be the comedy duo of the future, and in the best possible taste. They make refreshingly different and quite extraordinary baddies; he is more like Prince Charming, and she, a regular Scream Queen. Half the time, it seemed the audience did not know whether to boo or cheer them.
As for costumes, they ranged from the over-the-top and far away creations of the traditional panto dame to fetching frocks for Rapunzel and the fairies, plus Poisonella’s bewitching, truly exquisite confection. Meanwhile, the technicolour set has the tower and a cottage, and several doors which do not always open on cue. Indeed, this production revels in imrpov, and if it weren’t for the magic of Christmas, the more cunical armong us might wonder whether some of this is scripted. But fair play, there were excellent ad libs reacting to unexpected audience participation, while liberties, naturally, are taken with the original story, the dei ex machina being aliens. The tricky bits are helped out by dieos, models etc, and the odd bit of stylized mime, with some elements in fact so crafty, they may well become traditions in themselves.
Sam Heywood as Hood acquits himself very well, particularly in song and dance, considering the leading role is a tad oversahdowed by the light side of things. And while the rules all state that modern heroines have to include feisty at the top of their CV, amplified here with the four leadings ladies as a kind of Spice Girls for our times, this surely started with panto, and Stephanie Hockley delightfully keeps up the good work. The cast were as ever remarkably versatile with musical performances complementing the acting.
The whole thing on occasion weas so camp, it came complete with tents, but as far as Christmas spirit is concerned, the glass is is not just half full but brimming over at the Everyman. Cheers!