Happily Ever After is a simple show, with a simple message: love is love. Action Transport Theatre creates an amazing piece of theatre for children, inspired by Linda de Haan and Stern Nijland’s book, King and King, depicting a love story between two princes.
To perform a queer love story to young children in their formative years is incredibly important. No one is born prejudiced, and to show this kind of love on stage, to such a young audience, helps to promote the cause of both queer people, and love in general – there is so much positivity to be gained from this piece.
A basic, caricature-esque set displays lots of portraits of previous Kings and Queens. The queen is becoming impatient – her son can never be king until he grows up and gets married. Inviting princesses all over the land, they come and dance before the prince, but eventually he picks his future spouse, another man. Happy for her son, the queen blesses this union, and they are married.
Choreographed brilliantly, using physical theatre, a wonderful soundtrack that utterly reflects the tone of the show, and carries it through, the cast never speak, bar the odd screech and laugh. But who needs words to show such a basic concept? The performance is joyful, as it should be, because ultimately it is a celebration, a celebration of love.
When we meet the prince’s love interest, they dance around each other sweetly, in a playful and sincere manner. My heart warmed watching them connect, you see it in their eyes – an especially important aspect, particularly as there is no speech. The gender norms set out by the portraits in the beginning are turned upside down by their sheer adoration of one another.
This upturning of heteronormativity is equally upturned by the character of the queen, who is played by a man. Giving a wonderful performance with perfect comic timing, she is every inch the overbearing matriarch. Aside from the excellent acting, the character of the queen is subversive, subtly informing children that gender is as performative as the play they are watching.
Generally, what I love about this play is its sheer normality and happiness. The actors dance around, a smile on their face, bobbing along to the music, and enjoy themselves. The princesses come in and dance, the queen bounces along, the servants pull funny faces, the prince falls in love, and nothing is questioned. I was beaming the whole way through. It is blissful.
Overall, this play is fantastic, and an incredibly valuable and relevant piece of theatre. Not just for the queer community, but for the children fortunate enough to see it. Especially in the current world we live in, a piece that rejects prejudice and promotes positivity is what we need right now. Take your children to see it, take everyone you know.