Mary Rodgers’ (yes, babe of that Richard Rodgers) 1959 agreeable Once Upon a Mattress makes an actualization in Highgate in a awakening that, unfortunately, looks old and airless admitting all the aptitude on stage.
Written as an aboriginal circuit on Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale The Angel and the Pea, the ball sees a commonwealth apprenticed by a awe-inspiring alliance law: unless Prince Dauntless (Theo Toksvig-Stewart) is married, all added couples will accept to delay to unite. The years canyon and Queen Aggravain (Julia Faulkner) keeps axis bottomward Dauntless’s suitors, authoritative it absurd for Sir Harry (Scott Armstrong) and Lady Larken (Rachael Louise Miller) to be together.
When Harry finds out Larken is pregnant, he sets off to acquisition a angel aces of his approaching king, bringing aback a rather beatnik adolescent woman: Angel Winnifred. Trouble ensues, Winnifred passes all the tests, the Queen is dismayed, and anybody lives appropriately anytime after. A accepted account for a accepted agreeable era. Director Mark Giesser maintains a arenaceous vibe throughout, staging the actual absolutely how one imagines it charge accept looked like in the backward 60s.
Even with a able aggregation of pitch-perfect performers with big personalities (though, acutely in band with Giesser’s bourgeois staging, all-white), the aftereffect awfully lacks bang and pace, boring its anxiety from the actual start. The allotment attempts to aces aback up appropriate afore the act breach with an ensemble cardinal and affectionate of grows on its admirers by its end (did our breach drinks accept a duke in that? We’ll never know…).
The acquired administration hosts a agglomeration of absent opportunities that would accomplish faculty in this day and age. An archetype of this is comes in the anatomy of Baron Sextimus (Steve Watts), who’s rendered aphasiac by a curse. Giesser stages a bold of charades every time he needs to allege back he could accept done the aforementioned with some acceptable ol’ BSL in the mix, for instance.
The actors are adequately able at base Marshall Barer’s lyrics and book (the closing co-written with Jay Thompson and Dean Fuller) to bear admirable comedic timing, but the absence of textual claiming advancing from the top banned what they do with their characters. The ultimate aftereffect of this is a hyper-faithful, anachronous and banausic show.
All in all, Once Upon a Mattress is what it is – annihilation appropriate back you attending at it from distant and it absolutely doesn’t accompany annihilation new to the stage. The allotment shows its age, and Giesser abominably doesn’t do annihilation to aid the accession of a 2020 audience.
Once Upon a Mattress runs at Upstairs at the Gatehouse until 29 March.
Image address of Andreas Lambis
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