A forty minute one-act fairy tale with a difference!
Presented as part of The National Festival of LGBT History; a one day event of conferences, talks, music and theatre at The People's History Museum in Manchester, celebrating the LGBT community and its history.
This was the penultimate event of the festival and was performed in the Engine Room, a large space on the ground floor of the museum reserved for temporary exhibitions and conferences, and as such ideal for theatre too!
The play, -well actually I am not sure that it is a play - is presented all in mime and movement with music accompaniment throughout. It tells the story of a Queen and her son the Prince. The Queen is old and tired and wants to pass the crown on to her son, but he is simply not ready; he is somewhat of a rebel and non-conformist. The Queen decides he should marry and then this will prepare him for the throne, and so a succession of beautiful princesses are invited to the palace for him to choose from. The last princess is accompanied by her brother, the Prince Lee, and both princes fall in love and after a brief courtship they marry and share the throne together.
It is a rather charming, but very predictable story (given that we are there to celebrate LGBT) and the performance is, according to the producing company, Action Transport Theatre of Ellesmere Port, suitable for ages 5+, and a large schools' tour of this play is being mounted later in the year. Personally I would question both the suitability of this production for children so young and to take it into schools. My reasoning being the style of the presentation. Forty minutes of mime and movement may well appeal to a niche market of adults, but it certainly didn't hold the attention of the youngsters in the audience this afternoon, and since a 5 year old's attentions span is not very long, there was no change of pace, or dynamic within the piece - even the music was utterly repetitive - to keep their interest, and it was very sparse on comedy too. The controversial theme of the story is acceptable, since we see nothing different in pantomime, but the kiss by the two princes at the end may be, despite it being so inoffensively executed, by some, taken to question.
The cast were superb. Paul Curley as Prince Bertie, Bruno Mendes as The Queen, and all other characters played by Ady Thompson and Eve Shrotten. All four members of the team playing their roles with vim. The only way to perform such a piece is to ham it up, and play on caricature rather than character, and this was done superbly. All had excellent movement skills, and understood the genre. And all directed by Action Transport's Artistic Director, Nina Hajiyianni.
Hajiyianni's programme note states, " We wanted to make this show because it is really important that art reflects the world in which we live and the diversity of the people who live in it. Theatre can create empathy and deepen understanding, it is unique in this respect."
For more about Action Transport Theatre and their work for young people in the North West, please visit www.actiontransporttheatre.org
Reviewer: Mark Dee
Reviewed: 27th February 2016