INTELLIGENTLY CRAFTED ENTERTAINMENT
THE FROG PRINCE
Written by Rachel Henry
Directed by Hannah Clarke
KidzStuff Theatre for Children Inc
at 4 Moncrieff St., Mt. Victoria, Wellington
From 5 Jul 2014 to 19 Jul 2014
Reviewed by John Smythe, 5 Jul 2014
Since theatre actress and director Rachel More became Rachel Henry, a mum and a playwright,* she has become a dab hand at the KidzStuff tradition of adapting classic folk tales for young Kiwi audiences.
In a clever comment on contemporary society, The Frog Prince kicks off with a Fairy Godmother (Sherilee Kahui), who is a self-employed contractor competing on the open market, touting for business. Her point of difference is that she incorporates dance moves into her spell-making, and encourages the very eager children to join in to make it all work better. The dance they learn is used a number of times which increases the audience pleasure.
When Queen Marigold (Deborah E Rea) and King Bertie (Dean Hewison) are in despair at the uptight officiousness and rudeness of their prat of a son, Prince Frederick (Hayden Frost), the young audience is well primed to help them call for help. And so Frederick is turned into a Frog, only to return to human form when he has learned “It's what's on the inside that counts and appearances don't matter” – oh, and when he is kissed by a princess.
Down in the swamp he discovers the pleasures of being slimy, getting dirty slimy and leaping about – and of having friends. Felicity Frog (Kahui), Barnaby Duckling (Hewison) and Ladybird (Rea) all have their own stories (although it has to be said that when – after cooking up a feast of wild food delicacies on the barbecue – Ladybird flies away home to her children, there is no suggestion that tragedy awaits).
Barnaby, who becomes Freddy's good mate, turns out to be a signet – Queen Marigold knows her fowl – and Felicity is also under a spell, having been a hopelessly vain and selfish princess. And all ends up happily, of course, for all.
Abetted by Director Hannah Clarke the characterisations are strong, true and well contrasted, and the pace cracks along while audience engagement is astutely maintained.
In a world where Royalty is still part of our lives and its incumbents are ever-present in the media, it is marvellous to see them learning the lessons all of us must. While Frost navigates Prince Fred's learning with splendid clarity, as does Kahui's Felicity, Rea and Hewison are wonderfully real in their majesties' love of getting their hands dirty, eating with their hands and getting happily messy when not on duty.
I laugh out loud a number of times and thoroughly enjoy the intelligence behind this highly entertaining script and production.
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*For the record, since 2010, Rachel has written the following for KidzStuff Theatre: Thumbelina, Rumpelstiltskin, Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White, The Three Billy Goats Gruff.
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Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] (The Dominion Post);