How to morph a protagonist-dominated story into the story of a community? In a usual Chickenshed’s Christmas practice, the theatre reinvents well-known storyline set in an intimate, sparsely-populated world of a classical fairy-tale to accommodate a 200-strong cast. This year Chickenshed re-written Rapunzel for its signature seasonal show.
The great feature of the show is an imaginative set designed by Lucy Sierra. The story takes place in the woods made out of a web of ropes hanging from the ceiling in all directions. As well as physical, Rapunzel’s hair here also serves a metaphorical purpose. It passes over from being a plot device into a metaphorical being. Like never-ending extensions of the hair, the ropes entangle the forest, the characters – and the viewer long before we see the hair itself. We get caught like unsuspecting fish.
Another great idea is a room where Rapunzel herself is kept by the evil witch. It is located up in a tower on the left side of the set: a red room full of hanging frames without pictures, – unfulfilled memories and dreams, adventures that could have been and friends she never made.
The best performances are given by the three charming antagonists: Gothel the Witch (played by Gemilla Shamruk), and her two comic relief sidekicks, Theobald (Will Lawrence) and Hitty (Nathaniel Leigertwood). Together they decisively steal the show with their bombastic personalities, great voices, and catchiest songs. Gothel the Witch closing first act with “Don’t Mess With Me” number provides the emotional highpoint of the show. I was even a bit disappointed to see that none of them had any character development in the second act, but that would not be in line with the Chickenshed’s essence that is to give a chance to be a star to as many people as possible.
The actors have so much fun, you cannot feel but invested. You don’t even have to follow the narrative really – just come for the sheer joy and endless energy, for the Christmas spirit of togetherness and love.
That is the secret of Chickenshed’s magic Christmas shows, with so many youngsters on stage, the colourful lighting arrangement, you will be sucked into the action. It never is a story of a protagonist, not your story – but a story of the wider community, of Chickenshed.
Reinforcing the 200-hundred strong cast with a carcass of professional artists is not only an unusual way of delivering Christmas shows but also it better reflects the complexities of the world; the social change is a collective work much more than it is a work of an individual protagonist. It counter-balances the other Chickenshed shows that follow a more conventional narrative.
As the writers put it themselves in the play “It takes all kinds of creatures to complete the story”. It takes all kinds of people to complete Chickenshed.
Rapunzel is in Chickenshed untill 6 of January 2018. Tickets here.