Manchester has no shortage of family productions this Christmas. There are countless pantomimes and a Roald Dahl adaptation to choose from as well as this lovely play, written by local favourite, Charles Way. Following his success with both Beauty And The Beast and Merlin And The Cave Of Dreams, Way approaches a story more associated with pantomime and gives it a fresh twist.
Two ill matched families come together in the name of love. Young lad Dummling is much maligned. No-one expects him to achieve anything in life. He is constantly passed over as his brother is much stronger than him. One day he falls for Princess Dajona, a woman who cannot laugh. His brother Boris falls for Dajona's sister, Birgit; a woman who cannot stop laughing. Not to be left out, Dummling's mother Christina falls for the King. The young hero has to prove his worth as he embarks on a series of adventures leading to the discovery of the mysterious golden goose.
This fast paced production has humour a plenty as Way chooses to send up the codes and conventions of the fairy tale. This works really well as tongue firmly in cheek means that much of the earnestness that you expect from the genre is all but gone in place of smiles and laughter. It may not be as sophisticated as Shrek or The Princess Bride but it will make your child beam with delight as Way is so knowing of his subject.
One terrific scene features Dummling sorting out which things he wants uninvented and which things he wants to keep. The children on the evening I attended giggled at this dilemma as the protagonist had to choose from cheese straws and teachers, among other items. Beautifully written and directed with real respect for both children and adults, it is a joy to watch.
The talented cast are incredibly engaging. Paul Stoker and Andrew Grose spark off each other as Dummling and Boris – the brothers not so grimm. Eleanor Howell and Annie Rowe also keeps the laughs flowing as their love interests.
James Vartan’s set is simplicity itself consisting of small scale models and a forest with secrets. There is some wonderful animation and yes, everyone lives happily after. As will you if pick this goose instead of a turkey this Christmas.
- Glenn Meads