Pros: An enjoyable, fun show. Excellent cast and venue.
Cons: Will not work if you are not familiar with the original Fairy Tales.
The problem with seeing a family show on press night is that the ratio of adults to children can be a bit skewed. Happily, there were a couple of fairly large school groups attending on the night to balance out the adults and provide a noisy air of excitement. The production is perfect for this venue, but it could get a bit lost anywhere larger. It has a small cast of nine people, all of whom are excellent. They play characters from various traditional fairy tales that fall into two camps, i.e. Baddies and Goodies. Or are they?
The Big Bad Wolf and some of his fairy tale colleagues have been locked up, apparently for nothing more than being what they are and doing their job. They are visited by a smooth and smarmy Peter Pan and a sugary sweet, shallow Cinderella, the ‘Goodies’ of the piece who turn out to be not quite as nice as their reputation suggests. There follows a series of events exposing the deception that has been carried. The audience greets the revelations with loud gasps of disbelief, and later on with enthusiastic panto-style shouting. Peter Pan is especially good at insulting sections of the audience.
The sets and costumes are effective and deceptively simple, perfectly complementing the story and characters. They are the kind of thing you think, misguidedly, that you could do yourself. Although not particularly memorable now, the music was up-beat, easy to follow and fitted in without disrupting the dialogue. One character obviously did not have as strong a singing voice as the rest, but this was dealt with by giving them only one solo which could be delivered in a punk/rap kind of style. I particularly liked the way that Cinderella aped the singing of the classic Disney cartoon princesses.
I had a quick chat with some of the school groups in the interval; they were obviously really enjoying themselves. The primary school children favoured characters based on their entrance and costume, and were sometimes paying more attention to elements like the glittery disco ball than the dialogue. At least they were paying attention! The older group focused on the way that those incarcerated were getting on as a team even though they didn’t like each other. They also appreciated the way that the characters realised they might have been having a bad influence on children. There is a running joke in the first half about nobody knowing who Rumpelstiltskin is. The truth of this was borne out by one of the Year 7s (for the uninitiated that’s the first year of secondary school) who did not know who Rumpelstitskin was. If for any reason an audience member is not familiar with the original fairy stories, the play will not work for them at all.
I found the ending a little odd (not too sure what happened to Cinders and Peter Pan) and would have liked a few more topical adult jokes. But these are minor niggles about an excellent, very enjoyable show which I would recommend for family viewing. Even grumpy teenagers will enjoy it, although they may not admit it.
Author: Nancy Harris and Marc Teitler
Director: Purni Morell
Musical Director: Sam Sommerfield
Box Office: 020 7645 0560
Booking Link: https://www.unicorntheatre.com/whatson/110/baddies-the-musical
Booking Until: 24 December 2016