Theatre / “The Doll’s House”, by Henrik Ibsen, translated by Simon Stephens, directed by Aarne Neeme. At Theatre 3 until March 2. Reviewed by Joe Woodward
COMPOSED by Mary Rodgers, the daughter of famed Broadway composer Richard Rodgers, “Once Upon A Mattress” at the Belconnen Theatre coincidentally shared its opening night with the anniversary of Mary Rodgers’ birth on January 11, 1931.
Based on the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale, “The Princess and the Pea”, the show is bursting with comical characters and a plot that parodies fairy tales and ensures audiences have as much fun as the performers.
Director Anita Davenport has given the show a straight-forward production tailored to the skills of her cast. In colourful period costumes by Fiona Leach, the large cast look good and sing and dance with great enthusiasm. Alex McPherson as Princess Winnifred sings and plays her role with an amusing street-wise assertiveness. Isaac Gordon has a good time playing the dopey Prince Dauntless and Steven Galinec and Alissa Pearson make a strong impression in their roles of Sir Harry and Lady Larken, a couple needing to marry urgently.
Sarah Hull is good fun as the Gypsy forever forgetting to use her fake accent, Joe Moores is funny as the mute King Sextimus and Deanna Gibbs is temperamentally imperious as Queen Aggravain. Elliot Cleaves as the Minstrel and Jack Morton as the Jester also give good characterisations. As the Nightingales, Jude Colquoun, Emily O’Brien and Eilis French sing and act the comic Nightingale Melody very well.
Choreography by Jodi Hammond was nicely in period and the funny “Spanish Panic” dance sequence was especially well done. There was some uneven singing by the principles who found singing to a pre-recorded musical score challenging without a conductor to help them. The songs involving the full company were the most successful.
This is an enjoyable, colourful production which will appeal to children and adults alike.