Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Rumpelstiltskin - spinning a golden tale with songs on stage this Christmas at The MAC (until 3 Jan)

Rumpelstiltskin delights the main stage of The MAC this Christmas. First performed in the egg Theatre in Bath last year, Matt Harvey’s reimagined Grimm fairy tale is full of corny rhymes and set to music by Thomas Hewitt Jones.

The show’s themes of fair treatment, weak leadership, hunger for power and austere times resonate with the economic situation Europe finds itself in. But it’s also a musical treat that anyone aged five or above can enjoy.

“Life is hard running your kingdom” said the man who lacks imagination and relies on a chancellor of the exchequer an executioner to motivate his subjects to up their productivity and pay higher taxes. The Miller (Tom Giles) accidently oversells his hard working daughter’s spinning skills by telling the insolvent King (Michael Lavery) that she can spin straw into gold.
“Is that the odour of despair?”

Locked in a dungeon and faced with the impossible task of proving her father’s misplaced boast, Emily (Doireann McKenna) trades jewellery with a dark creature who saves her neck from the King’s threats. But as the bales of straw increase, she runs out of jewellery and has to sacrifice something much more precious to save herself one final time.
“From here on we will share everything.”

The wedding vows are sign that Emily has both the one with a social conscience and the control in the regal relationship. Standing up to the King, she proves that there are better ways of making his their kingdom work. What other children’s Christmas show in Belfast will espouse social justice, human rights and gender equality directly in the lyrics of their songs?!
“A pledge has been made and must be repaid”

After the interval, the plot bounces along in the shorter second half. The audience join in the quest to discover the creature’s name and free Emily from the terrible deal she made to save her own life. Doireann McKenna proves that she has a great head for names and allows her voice to soar beautifully above the men’s harmonies. Tom Giles also impresses with his mellow tone and some spirited Dad dancing.

The relatively simple set is comprised of a raised walkway supported by wooden poles which allow the fiercesome creature (brought to life brilliantly by Jo Donnelly) to slide down to the action below. Michael Lavery makes a good cowardly King although his vocals are the weakest of the cast of four. A three piece band accompany live, perched high above the stage.

In a couple of scenes the dialogue runs long and the youngest audience members’ attention started to wane though the cast are easily heard above any minor’s murmuring in the stalls and the audience participation is well judged and free of the rituals of pantomime.

The final song neatly reprises the action and ends the performance with an energetic number that the youthful audience could continue to hum as they left the theatre and headed back home. My trio of young theatre patrons (aged 10-14, including two MAC first-timers) loved the show.

Rumpelstiltskin runs in The MAC until 3 January. Don’t forget its name!

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