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The Prince and the Pauper (Susan Elkin reviews)

Show: The Prince and the Pauper

Society: Trinity Theatre (professional)

Venue: Trinity Theatre. Church Road, Tunbridge Wells, Kent TN1 1JP

Credits: By Mark Twain. Adapted by Jemma Kennedy.

 

The Prince and the Pauper

3 stars

Sean Turner is Trinity Theatre’s new director and this is his first Christmas show. So there was a relieved, party atmosphere (and lots of mince pies!) on opening night.

Using the version,  by Jemma Kennedy, originally commissioned by Unicorn Theatre in 2011, The Prince and the Pauper features identical twins (Leah Gayer and Mhairi Gayer in this case) as the titular pair just as the production at Unicorn did. Obviously, if you can find a suitably skilled pair this is perfect casting for a play about identity swapping although they should be more differently voiced than these two are. Mhairi Gayer isn’t long in the castle before she sounds like a Prince – and that doesn’t ring true.

Apart from the Gayers, there is a cast of six more professional actors – all accomplished actor-musos – and a team of eight young company members. The children rotate between shows in three teams and I saw Team Huckleberry with one substitution. Inevitably some are stronger than others and, because they’re not mic’ed, presumably for economy reasons, there are sometimes audibility problems.

Joelle Brabban, who moves between violin and viola, gives an impressive performance as Tom’s impoverished mother and the flouncy, flippant future Queen Elizabeth – making the most of Kennedy’s witty script, Dexter Southern brings gravitas and terror to Tom’s drunken, violent criminal father and to Henry VIII. He’s a fine guitarist and I liked the moment when he melts downstage from the throne to play a whistle. It was just one of the points in this production when the direction and choreography (Suzie Curran – lots of evocative choral stamping) drives the action and makes good use of Trinity’s unusually deep stage.

Emily Newsome is outstanding as a street busker with accordion. She has a magnificent singing voice, is no mean saxophonist and gives us a fairly convincing, faintly pantomimic, Miles Hendon, a good guy who tries to help Edward get back to his palace.

Full marks too for Stephen Hyde’s set which uses flapped flats with cartoon-style drawn buildings to create small down stage spaces in front of a sketched Tower of London and Westminster Abbey to make the setting clear. Behind that are gates and railings to separate the palace from the street. It’s engagingly imaginative.

So there’s a lot of charm and talent in this  competent show but somehow it lacks warmth and feels a bit flat. It never quite lifts beyond the sense that a bunch of good actors are doing their thing without quite transporting us or making us care quite as much as we should.

First published by Sardines https://www.sardinesmagazine.co.uk/review/the-prince-and-the-pauper/

Author information
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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