The Princess and the Pea
December 4-January 9
And now for something completely different, and that’s what’s so refreshing about the Unity’s panto, as well as being a good part of its charm.
Admittedly, this play does borrow from others, for example, the mirror in Snow White, but the same could be said of all such productions. The Unity is also unique in that there is always a serious message, the point being made without preaching or patronising: when a young girl is shipwrecked and finally reaches the Land of Meane, nobody will help her. She struggles on, more or less on her own, and it takes some doing before there is any kind of happy ending.
That summing up makes the whole thing sound a lot, well, grimmer, than it actually is, but the play is extremely comical in parts, although some of the song lyrics, and the actions, could be a bit much for younger children. One other thing which may seem odd is the seating with 3 rows forming a kind of backdrop. However, the actors make the most of the space, the stage largely being left bare, except for the mirror and the palace kitchen frontage on the other side. That is, until the bed takes centre stage, precariously piled high with mattresses and bedding.
Along with the set design, LIPA have done an excellent job with costume, the Wicked Queen in particular with her huge horned headdress and long, long train. The attention to detail also stands out in a flashback scene with inventive wigs for each of the princesses previously put to the test.
The whole cast lustily belts out all the songs and equally acts with great enthusiasm, whether it’s Keddy Sutton as the mean Queen or Josie Cerise’s intrepid princess. And the traditional transformation is not just the versatile Graham Hicks who plays both the Pea and the Minister of Meane but the downtrodden Prince, Duncan Cameron. The latter is also excellent at mime, evoking the creatures he encounters, escaping into the forest, as is Josie Cerise, memorably struggling to survive in the water after the ship capsizes.
Once again, a trip to the Unity makes the peafect (sorry) outing for all the family.