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Prince Charming (Susan Elkin reviews)

Book by Jenny Worton. Music by by Tom Gray. Lyrics by Jenny Worton & Tom Gray. A Little Angel Theatre and Perth Theatre at Horsecross Arts co-production
society/company: Little Angel Theatre
performance date: 16 Feb 2019
venue: Little Angel Theatre. 14 Dagmar Passage, London N1 2DN

Photo: Ellie Kurttz

★★★★

Given the justifiable concern about rising mental health issues even amongst primary school children, this thoughtful, tender show could hardly be more timely.

Prince Charming, beautifully puppeted by Nix Wood has refused to get out of bed or leave his bedroom for weeks. A grown up (Giulia Innocenti) – we, like Prince Charming, wrongly assume for a long time that she’s a royal courtier – tries to coax him out. His problem is that he’s worried about nearly everything. He’s afraid of the dark, terrified he’ll be struck by lightning or sucked into quicksand and anxious about the Bermuda Triangle – among other things. It’s a classic presentation of irrational and sometime crippling fear and the depression it causes. There will be children in every audience who recognise and identify with it.

Jenny Worton’s sensitively written script sees Prince Charming – who doesn’t want to fight dragons and is disillusioned with the requirement to rescue princesses – gradually helped, largely by the power of imagination to banish his demons. The piece also explores the dangers of stereotyping and how destructive it can be for children who feel they have to act up to some image of themselves, often imposed on them by others.

The voicework in this, often amusing, two hander is excellent and there are some good songs. Wood ensures that Prince Charming is, variously petulant, fightened, assertive and, gradually, stronger mentally. And you can hear it all in her voice. Innocenti, much larger, than the puppet of course, uses her voice well too as she pleads and leads him into a better mental state via a lovely beach fantasy where Prince Charming learns that he can do almost anything he’s determined enough to do.

Directed by Ross MacKay who also designed it, this show has an imaginative set based on semi-cylindrical blocks which eventually come together to form hints of castle turrets.

It’s enjoyable theatre with has a great deal to say to 6-11 year olds that they need, really need, to hear. They are not alone. “I’m not special when it comes to worry” is the last, very powerful song. And it’s all done without a shred of sanctimonious worthiness.

Photo: Ellie Kurttz

First published by Sardines: http://www.sardinesmagazine.co.uk/reviews/review.php?REVIEW-Little%20Angel%20Theatre-Prince%20charming%20-%20%E2%98%85%E2%98%85%E2%98%85%E2%98%85&reviewsID=3483

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Susan Elkin
Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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