The Princess and the Goblin

Stuart Paterson (from the book by George MacDonald)

Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh

(2003)

Review by Rachel Lynn Brody

Not quite (from what I've been told of the form) a Panto, and not quite a straight play, The Princess And The Goblin is an almost farcical story about a princess and the goblin prince who wants to marry her.

Princess Irene (Claire Yuille) is the typical fairytale princess, with a dead mother, an overprotective father (Robert Read), and what amounts to a fairy godmother (Eileen McCallum). She also has a nurse (Janette Foggo) whom she tries to outwit at every turn, an egalitarian spirit that lets her interact with a miner boy (Andrew Clark), and a propensity for getting into trouble. She's spotted by the goblin king and queen (Malcolm Shields and Shonagh Price, respectively), along with their son (Alec Westwood). Though all three maintain that they hate humans, and especially human children, Crown Prince Krankl (Westwood) seems a bit smitten with the "Sun girl," as they call Irene, and he ultimately kidnaps her to force her into marriage.

It's here that Irene's affections for Curdie Peterson (Clark) come into play - she rescues him from the goblins early in the play, and although she tries to escape the goblins on her own in act two it quickly becomes clear that she needs Curdie's help. Throw in a magic ring with a magic string that leads the wearer back to Irene's Great Grandmother, and you have all the makings of a fun holiday story.

While the acting is suitably over-played for the benefit of younger audiences, it's in the set and costume departments that this play truly comes to life. Designer Neil Murray has done a bang-up job in devising the look of the play, and everyone involved with the making of sets and costumes has contributed to a truly magical atmosphere throughout the production.

The number of sets that fly in and out of the production is staggering - and while they are mostly made up of painted flats, the look of all the pieces contributes to rendering a completely believable fairy tale reality.

Costumes are extremely diverse, ranging from Curdie's work clothes to Irene's hideously pink, horribly shiny princess gown, to the king's suit of armor, to a truly frightening headpiece worn by the nurse, and right on down to full-body costuming for both the goblins and a dragon (also played by Read) who's more adorable than terrifying.

The music also contributes greatly to the effects of the play, with a score composed by Alan Penman. Although the name of the conductor is not listed in the program, he or she deserves kudos for consistently and without fail hitting the timing of "effect" sounds - drums, cymbals, etc. - and synching them perfectly with on-stage action, maintaining the illusion of the "stage fights."

This raises one discouraging item about the play - while its programme is chock full of word-searches and mazes, coloring contests and fake interviews with the characters, there is little solid information about the people involved with making the piece. While this may not be the topmost concern of casual theatergoers and families, one wishes there was a bit more information available in the programme about what other projects the cast and company had been involved with.

"The Princess and the Goblin" runs until 28th December, 2003.

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