Battle of the Fairy Tales
Graham Whitlock and Dreamarts
Youth theatre charity Dreamarts' latest production is based on a very interesting concept. Was the Handsome Prince that rescued Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty the same rather smarmy man?
In a game show format rather like Blind Date, hosted by three little piggy Cillas, the young ladies battle it out for the hand of the Prince, 16 year-old David Mumeni. There is a really nice twist in the tail as a feminist generation has a hand in the ending.
The show, which stars no fewer than 45 young people from the age of 11 upwards, contains all of Dreamarts' usual ingredients; constant action, good singing and dancing to R&B, hip-hop and soul music and strong acting, particularly from the leads. There are many great songs that highlight not only the singing voices of the stars but also of the whole company, which come to a climax with the final song, Awakenings.
The show also invites the usual criticism, in that, in an attempt to please all of the people all of the time, it runs to no less than three hours when two would have been enough. In that this allows so many of the youngsters to showcase their talents, it is just about forgivable. Any company that can introduce a dustbin percussion performance can't be all bad.
First up is a very feisty Snow White who has to deal with dwarves who belie their names in every case. Everyone will have their own favourites but the very wakeful Sleepy (Louize Williams) and Zalika Henry as Dopey with an IQ of about 200 both perform particularly well.
The lazy Snow White (Kassie Mundee, still only 15) has fought with her stepmother (Oprah Solanke) and, to be honest, one's sympathies lay more with the latter. As with all the best fairy-tales, they eventually make up after the intercession of our incredibly cool (in his own mind) Prince.
Next up is Cinderella, played by 16 year-old Z J Adato who has a singing voice to die for. In a rather unusual twist, her sister TK, played by Rita Williams, is the one that the shoe fits. The Prince not only gets her but her stepmother as a bonus. Wabriya King is surely an acting star in the making. This is a character actress with a feel for comedy that is rarely seen other than on the professional stage.
After the interval, there was a rather unnecessary interlude with the Three Little Pigs story, the main interest being the fact that Cleo Thomas' Big Bad Wolf is vegetarian. The performances were good but the link with the plot was tenuous to say the least.
We then get into the final part, that of Sleeping Beauty. She is played by Posh Spice look-alike Syrita Curtin, who combines a good voice with tremendous looks and some real acting talent. Again, there is an unusual take on the tale, as Beauty is enticed to the disco by the Prince, takes some bad drugs and is put into a possibly eternal sleep. Following the feminist theme, it is not the Prince who helps her awake but her own self-respect. There is another good piece of character acting in this section from Mohamed Ibrahim as her servant, Ohaji.
All comes together for a happy ending for almost all of the key characters. As always, there is much acting talent on show and it seems likely that some of these youth stars will become actors in the future. One pleasing development is that so many of last year's stars have continued to be involved with the company, either working backstage or in the writing team.
Reviewer: Philip Fisher