Richmond Road School Hall, Ponsonby, Auckland

24/09/2007 - 29/09/2007

Production Details

Devised by Theatre Beating
Set by Trygve Wakenshaw
Costumes by Madeleine Hyland


Theatre Beating is proud to present a misshapen retelling of the Grimm brothers classic tale Rumpelstiltskin, at the Richmond Road School Hall in Ponsonby, Auckland.

Hooray! Yes, the tale of a talented little chap who helps spin wool into tin foil for a helpless damsel-in-distress. He sounds like a very nice guy doesn’t he? Yes!

Although, he does ask for the damsels first born child in return for his kindness… So maybe he’s not that nice. Oh, I don’t know!

Why don’t you come along to the show and decide for yourself?

And bring some kids so you don’t look weird.

Richmond Road School Hall
cnr Richmond Road and Brown Street

24 September 2007 – 29 September 2007
Performance times:
Mon & Sat: 14.00
Tue – Fri: 11.00 and 14.00

Sophie Henderson
Brett O'Gorman
Kate Simmonds
Trygve Wakenshaw

Set constructed by the cast

Theatre , Family ,

Uncompromisingly hilarious

Review by Nik Smythe 25th Sep 2007

The classic tale of Rumplestiltskin always struck me as one of the dodgiest of tales on which we and our parents and our parents’ parents were raised, and that’s saying something.  It breaks all the rules of modern day self-empowerment, especially for the girl:  Abandoned by her father to an oppressive monarch who will kill her if she doesn’t bring him untold wealth, then consenting to marry said oppressor but having made a dreadful deal with the ugly little troll who saved her she is forced to double-cross him.

Just what the moral is has always eluded me, and you might expect that for today’s politically correct family audiences they’d adapt the plot somewhat to include valuable messages of compassion and self-respect.  Then again, you may not expect this quite so much from a company that calls itself ‘Theatre Beating’.  And you would be right, not to.

The basic course of events remain the same, although it’s the girl’s mother, not father, and it’s not straw she weaves, it’s wool, and it’s not gold King Kingypants craves, it’s functional clothes and skiing apparatus made from tinfoil. 

Trygve Wakenshaw’s main role of King Kingypants is a complete git who’s the king so everyone has to do what he says.  The brazen wit and irascible capable-of-anything type energy he commands is shared in spades by the rest of the cast. 

As young put-upon Millie, Sophie Henderson stands out brilliantly as the worst robot dancer in children’s theatre today.  I wondered how we could ever believe this poor waif could want to marry the man who would have executed her for no practical purpose, and to that end Henderson delivers a perfectly pitched trait of naked ambition: ‘Yesss!  I’m gonna be a princess!’

As the creepy little title character, Brett O’Gorman is endearingly long-suffering with his place in enchanted society.  The most helpful character in the story, yet the villain of the piece, his open simplicity creates the ideal space to draw us in, and we might actually sympathise greatly with the poor fellow were it not for his antisocial vice of eating babies. 

Kate Simmonds’ blokeish, Helen-esque fool of a mum has gambled away all that she and her daughter owned in games of ‘Guess Who?’, which she is unfortunately terrible at – even taking a while to guess who her own daughter is on the phone.  Simmonds also cracks up the crowd as a highly strung delivery stork straight out of Dumbo. 

All the actors excel in their various secondary roles: there are 15 characters in all, including a herd of vicious killer sheep (honestly).  The whole hilarious kerfuffle was devised by the cast over two weeks and it’s refreshing to witness such an energetic cast of adults who, rather than reach out to try and appeal to the kids’ mindsets, clearly just share a childish sense of humour.  They are basically amusing themselves, to the incidental great enjoyment of the audience.  In this way, they are never condescending and so have the kids’ attention from the start.

As far as questionable sociopathic implications go, these are simply enhanced by the king’s flagrant pleasure for executing people and small animals ‘to death!’ … and of course Rumplestilts’ aforementioned favourite dish.  Also, we are witness to a rare insight into the home life of the browbeaten Rumplestilts, and we learn that his ‘guess my name’ trick is really a pathological compulsion to set himself up for failure.

The beautifully budget set, conceptualised by Wakenshaw, was constructed by the cast mainly from cardboard boxes, and rigged to achieve various nifty FX by pulling on woollen strings.  Costumes by Madeleine Hyland clothe the actors’ playful energy in snappy style – all white, all different, like homemade dolls’ garments. 

No lighting or sound effects are used, nor indeed required, and my son was virtually singing the catchy single ‘George Jeffrey Rumplestilts, that is my name!’ (if you’ll pardon the spoiler) right up ’til bedtime, for better or worse – better if you ask me. 

Theatre Beating’s Rumplestilts is simply, uncompromisingly and most refreshingly hilarious family entertainment.
For more production details, click on the title at the top of this review. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.  


John Smythe September 26th, 2007

Ah yes, the long-neglected 'Who Owns Devised Work?' forum, which still holds the record at 201 postings (although the last is the same as the first) ... I am now able to reveal, Thomas, that Alf Punter is not Anon/Lopez, etc - but Anon did support Alf's anti-devising stand (and Alf also offered many variables on his/her nom-de-web).

Thomas LaHood September 26th, 2007

Actually Nik, and John please correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think that good ol' Alf Punter was one of the aliases of the resident troll under Theatreview bridge...

nik smythe September 25th, 2007

ar ar! ... although we've established that our original denouncer of the very idea of devised work is a supercilious troll, i'm still compelled to commend Rumplestilts as a devised work which not only ticks every box a family audience could want (except perhaps any kind of wholesome family values), but apparently did so in only two weeks, challenging my own belief that the biggest issue devised theatre faces is underrehearsal. i'm sure having a well-worn househould yarn we've heard a hundred different times each covers a lot of the legwork that would be required of a from-scratch original, but nonetheless these actors are fully off the richter. and no, it's not an egocentric display of impressive acting, it's a solid piece of excellent comedy-driven storytelling.

Michael Smythe September 25th, 2007

"... my son was virtually singing the catchy single ..." - Are you saying my grandson was on YouTube?

Thomas LaHood September 25th, 2007

Makes me think of the great Australian jester 'Rumple'. His great comedy schtick was to die painfully before meagre audiences, wearing his hideous prosthetic nose and affecting his squeaky, cracked voice. His shows were technical and comedic failures to a fault. Last I heard he had landed a plum gig working for Cirque De Soleil.

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