Arts Review: Rapunzel

Dir .Lu Kemp, The Citizens Theatre,28th November – 3rd January

Themes of repressed sexuality, an underlying message that death is inescapable, eyes being viciously stabbed and gun violence aplenty. It can only mean one thing- a panto at the Citizens Theatre.

This plot-heavy, whirlwind adaptation of Annie Siddons’s Rapunzel is an intriguing mix of dark, captivating story-telling and that feel-good panto atmosphere you’re looking for at Christmas time.

The show begins with Rapunzel being orphaned in the gardens of Mother Gothel which spectacularly demonstrates the thrifty, creative stage design of Rachel Canning. From resourceful, colourful hand-puppets made from gardening tools to the fantastic usage of long ropes hanging across the stage to represent Rapunzel’s infinitely long hair it is truly a beautiful set to behold.

Jessica Hardwick portrays the peppy, strong-willed heroine everyone loves to see in a female lead. Donning dungarees and quirky red doc martens,Rapunzel reminds us that not every heroine in need of rescue is a Princess.

The Citizens’ cast demonstrates their incredible versatile skills as they take on many different roles. The music ensemble’s inclusion which occasionally cracks the fourth wall in an inquisitive way is a delight.

The story offers various twists and turns, from acts of selfish parenting to a Prince who’s only villainous motivation is wishing to save his country from economic downfall using any means to this end. Hmm, that’s a new one for the panto stage. Wicked step-mothers, charming princes and the typical comic relief characters are all present meaning that audience interaction and glitzy dance scenes entertain the masses of children that grace the theatre at this time of year.

The humour of the script is reminiscent of watching Pixar films 10 years later- the jokes are just enough to keep the kids laughing whilst the older members of the audience appreciate the occasional elusive mature humour.

It’s a welcome relief to see a pantomime that is not so cheesy that adult audiences may lose interest or feel a little second hand embarrassment at the audience participation. Yet Rapunzel does not take itself so seriously that the joy and fun is taken out of the genre. A definite must-see this Christmas.

[Chiara Bullen – @bullieob]

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