The Prince and the Pauper

Mark Twain, adapted by Chinonyerem Odimba
Watermill Theatre
Watermill Theatre Newbury

Tendai Rinomhota and David Fallon Credit: Pamela Raith
Loren O'Dair, Tendai Rinomhota and Stacey Ghent Credit: Pamela Raith
Stacey Ghent and David Fallon Credit: Pamela Raith

The Watermill Theatre’s Christmas production of The Prince and the Pauper is a delightful seasonal treat for all the family.

Mark Twain’s classic story of the young Prince (David Fallon, who reminded me of a young Rowan Atkinson) who is frustrated at being shut up in the palace and longs to find out about the real life outside and escape the rules imposed on him and wants a companion of his own age to play with.

Tendai Rinomhota plays the Pauper who dreams of breaking free from her lowly life in the East End of London and share her love of music and dance and perform for the finest people in the city.

When they both meet and decide to swop identities, they embark on a remarkable adventure where they learn about each other’s world and are changed forever—a salutary lesson for them both.

Adapter Chinonyerem Odimba brings an unusual twist to this tale by creating the part of the Pauper as a girl, Tomasina, which demands a huge leap in suspending disbelief since the two are supposed to look identical.

The six-strong actor-musicians are impressive multitalented performers who play a wide variety of instruments, double up on characters with ease and have a great rapport with the audience.

Hayden Wood strongly plays the King and the strict father of Tomasina, whilst Stacey Ghent and Loren O’Dair are engaging as the twins Bette and Nan as well as playing a multitude of other roles.

The ambitious Lady Whatsit (Anne-Marie Piazza) is determined to become Queen but is thwarted when the ailing King dies but hopes that Prince Edward will give her a position within the court.

She demands that Tomasina undergoes tests to prove she is indeed the Prince, which Tomasina hopes she fails, but Bonzo the cute puppet dog (who is a huge hit with the youngsters in the audience) is convinced she is the real Prince and so the tests continue.

Meanwhile, the true Prince is appalled at the poverty and squalor that the poor people have to endure and promises to make it better for them if ever he can get back to the palace where “the Pauper and the Prince can walk in each other’s shoes.”

Tarek Merchant’s music captures the mood and period perfectly and Katie Lias’s inventive London set has lots of surprises.

Imaginatively directed by Abigail Pickard Price, this magical show should definitely be on your Christmas wish list.

Reviewer: Robin Strapp