Watermill Theatre, Newbury – until 1 January 2023
There’s nothing quite like reviewing a festive family production when the auditorium is full of excitement from the four busloads of primary school children sitting ready and waiting the wonders that are about to come alive on the stage. At 10.30am, spirits are running high.
Rapunzel (Tilly-Mae Millbrook) is left by her father after the death of her Mother in the garden belonging to herbalist Mother Gothel (Miiya Alexandra). Teaching Rapunzel all about the healing qualities of each of the plants growing in the garden the audience have a horticultural lesson as part of the entertainment. The pair become incredibly close.
Everything in the garden is rosy until Rapunzel begins to blossom into a young woman and the fear of losing her to a young man engulfs Mother Gothel who then decides to hide her in the tower. Keeping her safe and all to herself. All parents know this is never going to end well.
Millbrook’s performance in the role of Rapunzel brings a touch of reality often lost in other adaptations. Each time her hair is used for a rope ladder, Rapunzel’s face winces and contorts, demonstrating the pain and torture that would be felt.
Along comes Prezze (Jess Lobo) to rescue her from the Tower and take her back to his family Palace to live happily ever after. Things don’t go to plan as you might expect and the journeys they embark on certainly aren’t part of their plans. However, they need to be travelled before being reunited.
Upon revisiting performances like Rapunzel as an adult you see the cruelty and control used by the dominant “bad” characters over those they deem weak. Although Mother Gothel approaches from a maternal perspective, it’s nonetheless cruel and imprisonment.
I especially liked the slapstick-style comedy used by Rapunzel as she flees the two “baddies” who want to Rob her. Each of the extremely talented cast members doubles up as the orchestra, bringing the musical score directly to the stage either as a solo or collective, depending on the music required.
Pierluigi Ambrosi (Emma Barclay) encompasses humour, truth, and an abundance of talent to see the errors of their ways and turn their back on crime and work towards a positive future. Barclay’s performance shines throughout the play and engages enthusiastically with the younger audience members.
Offie Award-winning director Lucy Betts has bought to stage the classic tale of Rapunzel and adds a few twists which makes for a thoroughly enjoyable alternative Christmas production.
The programmes retail at £3 each which I think is good value for money, as well as the usual cast information it has several pages of word search, crosswords, and make your crown instructions which would entertain younger audiences at home afterward, keeping the magic alive a while longer.
For more information on this Christmas production and future work coming to the Watermill please use the link below. Rapunzel is running now until 1st January 2023.