Home » Reviews » Midnight’s Pumpkin, Battersea Arts Centre

Midnight’s Pumpkin, Battersea Arts Centre

Adapted and directed by Emma Rice

Pros: Energetic, hilarious, and absolutely stunning.

Cons: You might get a bit overwhelmed – every element takes centre stage here, nothing is allowed to fade into the background.

Our Verdict: Clever, terrifically joyful, and absolutely the most fun you’ll have at the theatre during this festive season!

Courtesy of The Telegraph

We go to the theatre to be entertained, but we often go with such stringent expectations and critical attitudes that we forget the joy of utter surprise and the feeling of having those expectations thwarted. There’s more to a great show than simply meeting our preset standards of good. Sometimes I think that in the midst of going to the theatre expecting quality, intensity, or cutting-edge style, we resist the escape that live theatre, or any form of good story-telling, can provide for us. Luckily, a show comes along every once in a while to remind us that plays can just be pure fun; that there is – and can be – a sense of joy and relief in experiencing a piece of theatre. This season, Kneehigh’s beautiful, engaging, and laugh-out-loud circus of music and modern fairytales is that show.

Frankly, I was of the opinion that Cinderella had been overdone recently: I have seen every possible version on film, in literature and on stage in both theatre and dance form. As it turns out however, I was delighted to have this fairytale revitalized as the backbone for Kneehigh’s current production of Midnight’s Pumpkin at the Battersea Arts Centre. What’s particularly nice about the use of the fairytale here is that the script doesn’t go out of its way to give Cinderella a new ‘twist’. Instead, it takes the basic elements of the story, dusts off the old, and pumps some glitz, pop, and surely some kind of miracle stimulant into it, creating a familiar and well-loved starting point for a night of total excitement and creativity.

It’s hard to pick out the best bits, as the entire experience of the show is unique and stunning. There is certainly never a dull moment – the music is always going, the laughter is always pouring from the crowd, and the cast’s obvious enthusiasm is infectious. Even the intervals don’t slow you down: audiences are invited onto the stage/dance floor (the show is performed in the round) during breaks to mingle and dance, and there’s even an opportunity to spruce yourself up in costume to be prepared for the Royal Ball. I’m not sure there is anything more exciting than seeing audience members of all ages coming together to celebrate the play they’re enjoying together instead of whispering criticisms in each others ears, or whipping out their phones to catch up on Facebook during the breaks. It truly takes a special show to create the kind of environment where this is not only encouraged, but more importantly accepted by audience members of all kinds.

As far as the show itself is concerned, the cast is absolutely stellar. They dance, they sing, they deliver their jokes like it’s the first time every time. Perhaps their energy is rooted in the fact that Midnight’s Pumpkin is an original ensemble piece, and the cast were involved in creating the show from start to finish. Whatever the reason, it’s clear that the performers love the work they’re doing – there is such a sense of fun on stage that it can’t help but be contagious.

I can’t document every exciting and striking moment and I won’t try; part of the fun is the surprise of the spectacle as the show takes on an almost circus-like feel. I will say there is flying, some well-planned audience participation, some absolutely amazing lighting, some excellent original music, and more clever comedy than you’ll know what to do with. You’ll laugh. Your kids, (toddlers or teenagers) will laugh. Your Granny will laugh. Ultimately, you’ll all leave happy.

One last note – it’s rare for us to review a musical of any kind: they’re not particular favorites of our staff or of this reviewer. However, in the case of Midnight’s Pumpkin, don’t let the musical element discourage you – the show is splendidly campy, but it’s not your traditional Rodgers and Hammerstein or the like. In fact, it’s not like anything you’ve seen or heard before. Either way, you’re bound to have a fabulous time regardless of your personal taste.

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

Midnight’s Pumpkin runs at the Battersea Arts Centre until 13th January 2012.
Box Office: 020 7223 2223 or book online at http://www.bac.org.uk/whats-on/midnights-pumpkin/

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