Review: Rapunzel, Chickenshed Theatre
4.0Overall Score

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My deepest condolences if this deflates your childhood balloon, but Tangled is not my favourite Disney film. I never really connected with any of the characters. This production, a spin on Rapunzel, brings life and light-hearted comedy to the original plot, with movement being the core of the show.

I did not expect the incredible diversity of this cast. Theatre is elitist, can be very expensive and it is common for those who can afford to see a performance to be representative of the people in it – very white and middle-class. In this production, we have a boy in a wheelchair being pushed around onstage and moving in time with everyone else. This is not something I have seen before, but this is the direction theatre must follow. I also notice the sign-language translators who keep up with the actor’s steps and convey similar facial expressions to the woodland creatures. It is inspiring to see evidence of theatre moving forward and becoming more representative and accessible.

Looking at the set, the intricate backdrops and the leafy costumes remind me of the importance of design in performance. The set has the mystical, unusual atmosphere needed to make us believe we are no longer in an auditorium. The props and lighting gels are carefully considered for each scene. Props to the lighting designer — no pun intended. Vibrant colours flash and stroke the stage in just the right moments. This design helps us to switch off and transport into this distant reality.

Most of the production, however, is chaotic and quite challenging. I enjoy musicals and this was not the path the devising process chose. It has no belting songs or a 20-second drum solos because children would rather a catchy tune or jingle they can hum on their way home. The songs were joyous to listen to, but do not get that ‘Wow! I am watching a musical feeling’. Whilst some songs do not seem necessary to me the solos are well performed.

What really stands out to me are the children at the beginning who open the show confidently and professionally, every line delivered smoothly. It is very impressive. If I was much younger and saw this performance live, I would surely bop in my seat to the beat of the music and gasp at the trees wondering if they were real. The cast has a lot of energy and this adaptation is pleasant to watch.

However, I am not really experiencing the comedy and laughter moments I have been promised. I like to take something away after watching theatre and unfortunately, nothing really stands out to me from this production. It does give me hope for a diverse society of creatives and audiences, leaving other practitioners with no excuses for not involving themselves with the communities they want to represent.

Rapunzel is now streaming online. For more information and to watch, see Chickenshed Theatre online.