EFR - Reviews of Rumpelstiltskin

Rumpelstiltskin

Mon 15th – Sat 20th August 2016

reviews

Alice Harper

at 11:16 on 18th Aug 2016

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This retelling of 'Rumpelstiltskin' combines dance, songs and quirky humour to create a spectacle that is both strange and fascinating. The production succeeds in keeping the characteristic darkness of the Grimms’ fairy tale, while making it seem fresh and different.

The cast each play separate characters as well as coming together to perform as the chorus, singing songs and using expressive dancing to tell the story. At the beginning of this performance there is a sense that the dance routines suffer slightly due to a lack of space in such a small venue. However the cast cope well and for the rest of the show it is clear that the directors have thought carefully about how best to use that limited space. The dance works brilliantly in setting the tone of the production, with some of the exaggerated movements and facial expressions reminiscent of traditional mime acts.

The script is a winning combination of comedy and seriousness, pitched just right so that one does not cancel out the other or make it seem out of place. There is even some social commentary mixed into the otherwise delightfully silly song ‘we’re off to see the poor’. Throughout, the dialogue and physical movement of the actors complement each other so that the performance flows from start to finish. Some of the transitions could be slicker, and during this performance there are one or two prop malfunctions, although the cast recover well and are able to gain laughs from them.

The whole show is beautiful to look at; the costumes are simple but work so well together, giving the whole show a kind of faded glamour. The dramatic make up adds to this, as well as providing a weirder, magical feel which reflects the story’s fairy tale origins. The music is original and really adds to the visual effect, not only the songs but also the background music during scenes. Far from being intrusive, it really helps to create the atmosphere.

The portrayal of Rumpelstiltskin is innovative and fascinating; Alex Ottie’s incarnation of the famous imp is clearly unhinged, both charming and, at times, chilling. The scene where he is alone in the forest is particularly brilliant in exploring madness and loneliness in a darkly comedic way. Rumpelstiltskin converses with woodland creatures, and himself, while eagerly anticipating his overthrow of the king. This whole sequence is weirdly mesmerising, like a kind of nightmare puppet show. Of course, we all know how the story ends, but that doesn't make the conclusion of this show any less dramatic.

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Caragh Aylett

at 03:17 on 19th Aug 2016

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'Rumpelstiltskin' is an adaptation of the classic fairy tale. The actors from Durham University present the piece wonderfully through music, acting and physical theatre. The retelling of this fairy tale enchants young and old alike.

The performance is beautifully underscored throughout by Thomas Harrison, and this really adds to the feel of the piece. It sets the tone as the audience walk in and is a wonderful asset to the performance. However, it is unfortunate that, in places, the singing does not quite match the quality of the music, perhaps this would have been perfected with a few more rehearsals.

While the acting is mostly strong, in some places the actors could have engaged with the physicality of their characters more. In parts this is executed wonderfully but it is inconsistent and in places it falls slightly flat. Additionally, the character of the daughter, played by Lucy Knight, sometimes comes across as slightly unconvincing. In moments it is difficult to engage in her turmoil and strife and this causes the piece to lose some of its force. Despite this, there are also moments of flawless acting. The character of Rumpelstiltskin, Alex Ottie, is certainly worth mentioning. His evil nature is wrapped up in his charm and the audience are presented with a villain who is also very likable. The development of this character is, therefore, complex and for this Ottie deserves great praise. Equally, the grotesque style of the King, Anais Dahl, carries wonderfully and the levels of the character as both gruesome but loving his new born son are notable.

What is truly impressive about the piece is the way in which all characters are played by six actors. The transition between characters is natural and successful and creates a smooth flow to the piece. The acting talent of the cast is fully realised in these moments.

'Rumpelstiltskin' is a wonderful retelling of the fairy story. In places it would benefit from being more polished but overall the quality of the performance is excellent. Suitable for families, this piece will continue to captivate audiences both young and old.

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