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The Park's not-quite-a-panto charms once again
Does three times qualify as an annual Christmas tradition? This is the third year that the Park Theatre’s artistic director Jez Bond and his collaborator Mark Cameron have written a gleefully unhinged spin on a classic tale (with Bond also directing). This year, following ‘Sleeping Beauty’ in 2013 and ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ in 2014, this ambitious Finsbury Park venue has ‘Rapunzel’ in its sights. If your kids know the tale from the movie ‘Tangled’ or from all-blonde storybooks, here’s the anti-Disney version: anarchic, absurd, musical, energetic, uncomplicatedly multi-racial and full of amusing word-play.
This ‘Rapunzel’ is not the sort of not-quite-panto that’s packed with pop culture references, but Donald Trump (boo), and local heroes Arsène Wenger and Jeremy Corbyn get a mention (look out for Corbyn’s head, or at least a photo of him, on a stick – eye candy for some Labour MPs, no doubt). Mostly, this production exists in its own world, with its own delightfully nonsense language and traditions (the villain comes from a land where they venerate face flannels).
The story is a loose spin on the old yarn. Rapunzel’s parents, the king (Rolan Bell) and queen (Aretha Ayeh), play royalty as awfully nice but dim, while their grounded court medic, Dr Chuff (Avita Jay), is a welcome voice of reason and suspicious of spivvy conman The Great Gazombees (Mark Cameron) and his gullible assistant Dobson (Alex Hope) – responsible for kidnapping the royal baby and locking her in a tower. Later, Ayeh switches roles to play an endearing Rapunzel, while Hope swaps costumes to give a fun turn as a wannabe new king coming for an interview. Compared to last year’s show, a handful of earnest songs lend the show a hint of traditional musical theatre – but only a hint. Mostly this is crazy and chaotic.
The cast of five gave it their all at the 10am (!) performance we attended, playing to two groups of local school kids having a whale of a time. Some of the playful language will go over children’s heads (especially a character confusing ‘eyes’ for ‘arse’). The theatre recommends bringing kids aged seven or older, but some younger kids should enjoy the show too. Just don’t expect them to understand the brief (and entirely innocent) love scene involving surgical rubber gloves.
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