Fortune Theatre, Dunedin

07/10/2017 - 14/10/2017

Production Details

Fortune’s Family Season returns with a hilarious kiwi take on the classic tale of Rumpelstiltskin!

Written by acclaimed Christchurch playwright Gregory Cooper (That Bloody Woman, The Emperor’s New Clothes), this childhood classic has been brought to life by Dunedin-based director Jordan Dickson (What You WillRed Riding Hood) with original musical accompaniment by Zac Nicholls.

Young Mary Miller is put in a right rotten situation when her cheeky father promises a prince that she can spin straw into gold! When the less than admirable prince threatens to lock her in the tower if she can’t live up to her father’s promises, she must call upon a strange little man to get her out of her bind. This is Rumpelstiltskin, but not quite as you know it…

Featuring a very mouthy miller, a hay-fever ridden straw mouse, a cry-baby prince and hungry little corgi, this laugh a minute show has plenty in it for the kids – and some giggles for the big kids too.

Rumpelstiltskin plays at
Fortune Theatre
7-14 October 2017
11am and 2pm, October 7 – 14
(no shows October 8)
For more information and tickets head to or call 03 477 8323

Nick Tipa – Prince, Baby and Spinning Wheel
Beth Turnbull – Mary Miller
Katherine Kennedy – The Miller, Queen, Straw Mouse, Rumpelstiltskin and The Stork
Zac Nicholls – Musician

Operation by Anna van den Bosch
Set by George Wallace 

Theatre , Family , Children’s ,

50 mins

Delights the children

Review by Terry MacTavish 10th Oct 2017

Bit of a shock to go almost directly from Gregory Cooper’s triumphant That Bloody Woman on the Fortune mainstage to his boutique children’s fairy-tale Rumpelstiltskin in the cosy studio downstairs, but the very different audiences seem equally enthusiastic.

The green spotted bow in front of me belongs to Gabrielle (9), the pink fluffy top to Charlotte (10), and they assure me they will give their honest opinion and are happy to be quoted in any media, while beside them seven-year-olds Molly and Victoria wriggle and smile shyly.  Curly-haired Roan behind me is clearly preparing to sprint onstage at the first hint of an invitation. The studio is full, and overflowing with joyful anticipation. 

Jordan Dickson is well experienced in concocting fun school holiday productions for the small fry and although the formula is familiar now, it does work a treat.  The set designed by George Wallace is charming, a suggestive pile of hay bales in the stone interior of a storybook castle tower, nestled into the L-shaped studio stage, with windows giving a romantic glimpse of the countryside beyond.  There are attractive costumes, several sensibly recycled from Into the Woods (that blue Smurf onesie also looks suspiciously familiar!) and Anna van den Bosch’s lighting is just right, from spooky green forest to a golden glow for the – spoiler alert! – straw to gold transformation.

Zac Nicholls once more provides the music, perched throughout the play on top of the haystack: a gentle troubadour with guitar in place of lute, calmly blowing the odd straw out of his kazoo. The three actors bounce onto the stage exuding enthusiastic energy and interact confidently with the little ones, teaching them the Super-Secret Signal that will ensure silence when they need it.

The ever-reliable comic Nick Tipa brings his trademark cute goofiness to the role of spoilt brat Prince Horace who is seeking a bride, anyone who wants to be a princess and doesn’t mind a little light housework. And can spin straw into gold, of course. After a bizarre stint as a lycra-clad Spinning Wheel, Tipa gets to play his own baby son, who (as his mother astutely notes) bears a strong resemblance to his father.  And sports a Smurf onesie.

Tipa is agreeably supported by Beth Turnbull as friendly, down-to-earth Mary, the Miller’s Daughter, who anchors the narrative, but it is Katherine Kennedy who has the glorious opportunity of acting all the amusing character roles, from pot-bellied boastful Miller to scampering Straw Mouse to imperious Queen (attached to a dog called Winston) and then of course, devious Rumpelstiltskin. This is an unexpected interpretation: in baseball cap, velour track pants and tacky bling, Rumpel announces his arrival in a catchy rap that delights the kids.

It is all very pleasant and the children around me are totally engrossed, many wearing wide grins for the whole show, and all eager to be invited to participate, but to my mind this production is rather tame after the last Family Season offering, Zac Nicholls’ own brilliant What You Will.  Based on Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, it had far more depth to it: different theatrical styles explored, characters who developed and changed, moral issues to ponder and lessons to be learned. 

This script suffers by comparison: the lovely linguistic excesses of the Miller (beautifully delivered by Kennedy) are not replicated in other scenes, and the Miller vanishes from the story without ever facing the consequences of his braggart ways.  And how disturbing is it that nice, sensible Mary chooses to marry a selfish loser like Horace, presumably just to be a princess? Would Kate Sheppard have done so? What sort of an example is that for Gabrielle and Charlotte, I ask?

But such comparisons do not trouble the excited children, who buy into the story, shout advice to the characters; relish the references to things familiar to them, from Justin Bieber to Jacinda Ardern; chortle at the jokes about pony-tail pulling and yukky Brussel sprouts, and revel in being wolves or quicksand. When Prince Horace lies down in Mary’s lap and sucks his thumb, Roan behind me giggles till he chokes. I am pleased to report he manages to score his moment of fame on stage. This team really does handle its audience sensitively. I feel quite moved by one sweet interlude when the children innocently tell Horace and Mary the quaint presents they would like to give them for their wedding. 

So no more carping, Rumpelstiltskin is well-directed and engagingly acted, with fine technical support, delighting the children and pleasing the adults, who indeed probably regard the Fortune’s holiday plays as an indispensable public service.

Gabrielle and Charlotte wait conscientiously to give me their verdict. They absolutely loved it. No feminist stirrings apparent. “I liked the songs,” said one. “It was so funny,” added the other, “especially the baby.” But best of all, they tell me: “The straw turning to gold!”

I feel a moral coming on. I’ll leave it to the reader to work out.


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