Friday, 5 August 2011

Review: Midnight's Pumpkin, Kneehigh Theatre

Somewhere in a field in Cornwall...

Midnight's Pumpkin is the ninth show I've seen by Kneehigh, and the first in their brand-spanking-new tent, the Asylum. I went with about a dozen people of varying ages, and the first thing to say is that everyone loved it.

Photo (C) Steve Tanner
Midnight's Pumpkin is basically Cinderella, and the company pulled off the difficult trick of making it entertaining for both adults and children, with singing mice, disco dancing, a talking pumpkin and lots of ridiculousness, nicely balanced by a well-judged send-up of the commercialisation of Romance. Phil Brodie's Duke of Blackwater is a posh bloke in search of love, having to deal with the horror that is video-dating, while fending off the attention of gold-diggers and OK! Magazine. He was extraordinarily funny, and did the boy-band ballad singing perfectly.

Photo (C) Steve Tanner
Audrey Brisson as Midnight (that's Cinderella to you and me) was much quieter, but managed to pull off being both mousey and suitably alluring at the same time. She sang, she danced, she did some very pretty acrobatics on a hoop, and she did really have very, very small feet. The only performer who was slightly tedious at times was Mike Shepherd, who turns up in every Kneehigh show doing his pantomime dame routine. He is the company director so presumably no-one dares to tell him to cut his stage time. But really, it was the trashy, flashy Prince of Blackwater who made the whole thing shine.

I know Kneehigh have a certain formula, and sometimes it works better than others, but this was definately one of their better shows. As they have have got more successful, Kneehigh's productions have got less disturbing, which is shame for those who like a bit of darkness in the theatre. But this is a family show, and as such, really excellent. You even get to participate in the embarrassing dancing at the wedding disco, and most of the audience did.

That's the show: as to the tent, it was a large white tent, and I can imagine why a theatre company would want a customised space they can take anywhere. It looks like the Eden Project domes, and is probably terribly eco-friendly. However as an audience member I found it a bit blank. I was hoping for a magical space like a circus big top, but it was more minimalist than that, and I thought it lacked atmosphere. It must have cost a pretty penny, as adult tickets were £22.50, which is way too much in an area like Cornwall, where incomes are very low. I certainly would not have been able to afford a ticket if it had not been for a friend negotiating a deal.

Midnight's Pumkpin - 5 stars
The Asylum Tent - a slightly disappointed 3 stars
Ticket Price - Ouch!

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