Goldilocks and the Three Musketeers (Battersea Arts Centre, until December 31st)
A madcap mash-up of popular stories becomes a seasonal rib-tickling romp in the hands of a talented trio who could have walked straight off the set of The League of Gentlemen.
The cheekily insane Goldilocks and the Three Musketeers is the third Christmas show of its kind from Sleeping Trees and it’s worth trekking to Battersea Arts Centre to catch this energetic, daft and delightful production.
The endearingly well-planned plot brings to life lots of well-known characters from fairy tales, children’s literature and other popular novels and mixes them all together madly to create a five star kids’ show worthy of any festival fringe main stage for grown-ups.
Within minutes the fairytale of Goldilocks and the Three Bears gives way to an imaginative saga in which an evil Alice (now Queen of Wonderland – a sort of wicked bitch of the quest) has stolen the happy endings from lots of familiar stories, embittered by the fact that she doesn’t get a decent conclusion to her own book but just wakes from a dream.
Along the way to saving the day Goldilocks meets a host of well-known characters, from a remonstrative Mad Hatter (fresh out of tea-hab), a BFG reduced to size, a musical Greatest Snowman, singing elves and boyband Musketeers.
The story shoots off in many directions, yet never loses its way. Indeed, it’s a very well-crafted plot which – like good pantos – has plenty to appeal to the children yet remembers there are also adults wanting to be entertained in the audience.
Writers James Dunnell-Smith, Joshua George Smith and John Woodburn are an indefatigable trio bringing it all to life magically and confidently, aided by composer and performer Ben Hales, about whom we learn some fascinating facts which may nor may not be relevant to the unfolding drama.
Smith has more than an air of Christopher Biggins to him, “eggshelling” at playing a cracked Humpty Dumpty and others with an impish glee. Dunnell-Smith is an innocent but feisty Goldilocks, while Woodburn is a truly wicked Alice as well as channelling Hugh Jackman extraordinarily well to play the singing Snowman on a hunt for a carrot to give him a nose.
The three work together exceptionally well, showcasing to stunning effect their surreal, physical and pacey comedy credentials. So relentlessly engaging and entertaining are they that adults are more than likely to want to see their touring shows for the older audience during the year.
It might be a show for children but there is no playing down to anyone. All of the audience are drawn in to participate somehow and the trio all manage to handle any reaction from young watchers. And if the children don’t respond then the adults are very quickly drawn into the merriment/embarrassment.
Director Kerry Frampton holds the reins, seemingly working on the basis that the barmier the better and the result is a happy ever after story that makes Shrek look like Andy Pandy.
Set and costumes (Zahra Mansouri) are creative and awesome, with moveable furniture able to transport viewers from South to North Pole, Wonderland through the rabbit hole and a backpack pocket. Lampshades become mad hats, porridge bowls are turned into helmets and a wardrobe becomes a portal to all manner of worlds (take that, Narnia!).
The costumes are works of art in themselves, none more so than Alice’s split personality blue pinafore dress blended with a Red Queen of Hearts outfit.
Battersea Arts Centre has a pleasing “relaxed performance” ethic, which is good when tinies get bored (though there’s little chance for that in this show) and need to be taken out. Or perhaps when they get restless because they need – as do the French Musketeers – a “Yes!” (think about it…)
It’s absurdly nonsensical but utterly brilliant – and definitely a case of all for fun and fun for all!
Images: Adam Trigg
A version of this review originally appeared on The Spy in the Stalls http://www.thespyinthestalls.com/