We know Rumpelstiltskin as an imp that takes a person’s first-born child as payment for granting a wish. The only way to break this curse is to guess the imp’s name. In the original Brothers Grimm story, Rumpelstiltskin’s relationship with people is purely transactional and everything comes with a price. However, what happens to this villainous imp after his name was revealed? This is what this version of Rumpelstiltskin addresses. It is an epilogue that takes the audience on a journey with Rumpelstiltskin (Philip Lee). As he meets other magical creatures and some modern-day icons, he is transformed into a hero by their kindness, learning that people can help others without expecting anything in return.
The musical is littered with fairy tale characters, including the three blind mice, Captain Hook, the Genie and even Larry, the Chief Mouser at 10 Downing Street (I know he is not magical, but I wager he is equally renowned by the British populace). In addition to introducing these well-known and beloved characters, the show incorporates modern day affairs; the numerous Prime Ministers in 2022, the partygate fiasco, and the strikes still happening across the country. Other than Rumpelstiltskin, the remaining characters are played by the talented trio of Emily Cairns, Tamoy Phipps and Lucy Whitney, who switch their personas quickly between mini stories.
If you think this show only appeals to children, then think again. There are numerous cock related innuendos throughout the show and even Onlyfans makes it to the script. Lee’s enthusiastic performance, together with well-timed innuendos and sound effects, make the perfect recipe to trigger howls of laughter. Having sat next to a few families, it was clear the parent breathed a sigh of relief as their children remained oblivious to the adult humour.
The costume choices are on point, with Phipps’ Daisy the cow, equipped with her udder squirt gun, one of the highlights not just for the children but even the unsuspecting adult audience. Those sitting in the front row, beware! Needless to say, John Savournin (writer and director), milks the udder and cock as much he could to maximise the comedic effects.
Despite the delightful and hilarious performance, some of the technical, stage design and costume elements could be improved. On more than one occasion, the Philip’s pointed ear extensions fell off mid-act causing him to hide his ears beneath his hat. While this could happen no matter how careful one is, it happened more than a couple of times throughout the show. The stage itself contains many components that are used for different parts of the story, but it is primarily bookshelves that are put together and resembles a study. However, a significant proportion of the show takes place in some very non-study like locales, such as a barn, pirate ship, cave and prison cell, so it isn’t clear why the set is the way it is. Although a very minor point, the stage at the Park Theatre is relatively small. Given how close the audience is to the actors, one could hear some slight delays in the actors’ singing and the broadcast through the mic, making it difficult to understand the lyrics.
This is a delightful story to kick start the Christmas and new year festivities. Both the children and adults can find something special in its delivery. It is witty, current and energetic, reeling in the audience on a magical journey as Rumpelstiltskin is transformed from a greedy and hateful imp to a selfless hero that saves the day.
Written and directed by: John Savournin
Music, Lyrics and Musical Direction by: David Eaton
Choreography by: David Hulston
Produced by: Charles Court Opera and Music Theatre
Rumpelstltskin plays at Park Theatre until 14 January. Further information and bookings can be found here.