Monday, 17 December 2012

Once Upon A Mattress - Union Theatre - Sunday 16 December ****

The Union comes up trumps again with this charming retelling of the Princess and the Pea fairytale with music by Mary Rodgers (daughter of Richard, so no weight of expectation bearing down on those shoulders), lyrics by Marshall Barer and book by Barer, Jay Thompson & Dean Fuller.

Ryan Limb as a likeable conspiratorial Minstrel sets the scene as Paddy Glynn’s taciturn Queen Aggravain does everything in her powers to stop her loveable but dim son Prince Dauntless, Mark Anderson as adorable as an Andrex puppy, from finding a suitable wife. In a blustering whirlwind the only remaining candidate, Jenny O’Leary’s tomboyish Princess Winifred (Fred to her friends), arrives having swum the moat surrounding the royal residence and the fun really begins. Protesting that beneath her bravado she is a retiring type, O’Leary livens up events with “Shy” and from hereon in the action never lets up, reaching a pinnacle with the ridiculously enjoyable “Spanish Panic” dance number during a ball at the palace.

The spark between the two young leads is enchanting, as Dauntless and Fred fall in love against the odds and Fred’s royal credentials are tested when she retires from the ball exhausted to a bed of 20 mattresses with a pea secreted underneath.

I don’t suppose it is much of a spoiler to reveal that Fred passes the test with flying colours and everyone lives happily ever after, apart from Queen Aggravain.

A lovely sub plot involving a commitment phobic vain knight Harry, Stiofan O’Doherty with a warm rich tone and a nice line in self-deprecation, and his troubled pregnant Lady, Kimberley Blake a classic ingénue beautiful of face and voice, gives proceedings an edge as we remain unsure if Harry will do the right thing. However, the evening belongs to Messrs Anderson and O’Leary, of whom I expect to be seeing a lot more in the future.

This Christmas cracker ensures the entire audience leave with a warm fuzzy feeling inside and a huge grin on their face as the, mostly, young cast enthral and entertain with sharp direction from Kirk Jameson, who has his tongue placed firmly in his cheek, and wonderfully fluid dance routines from choreographer Racky Plews.

Congratulations to the Union, we have spent many happy hours there in 2012 and look forward to many more in 2013.

Booking until 5 January 2013, a real Christmas cracker - Once Upon A Mattress

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