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Did Brian Friel ever write a Christmas show? If he did, it might have looked like this one from the National Theatre of Scotland. Responding to the need for social distancing – and the desire to spread the work around – this Rapunzel is a series of monologues written by half a dozen playwrights. As with Friel’s Faith Healer, the story gets more rounded with each successive scene.
It begins in panto mode with Johnny McKnight as a narrator-cum-dame. Sitting in a flurry of red, black and white dots on Kenny Miller’s set, he treads a funny line between waspish and benevolent as he promises “all six sides, all six chapters” of a story that’s not as familiar as we think.
It is filmed by Stewart Kyasimire in the fairytale-like halls of Stirling Castle, and the visuals remain extravagant – a special nod to the silky green dress and floral pink hat worn by Darren Brownlie as a psychic rose.
For all the exuberance, however, storytelling comes before comedy. Traditionalists will miss the tower and the inordinately long hair, but will enjoy piecing together the evidence of a rogue botanist, a 15-year abduction and an undercover queen.
Whether it’s Michelle Chantelle Hopewell as a preening herbalist Betty Botanista, Julie Wilson Nimmo as a vulnerable Anita Haircut or Katie Barnett making Miss Havisham look well-adjusted as Gothel, the performances are subtle as well as witty. If there’s one baddie too many to make a balanced story, it is no less colourful for it – the more so thanks to the superb score by Audrey Tait and Lauren Gilmour of Novasound, every song sounding like a hit.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Rapunzel: A Hairy Tale Adventure review – an exuberant musical box of treats | Panto season