The Frog Prince
29/06/2010 - 10/07/2010
This traditional fairytaleis turned upside down in a highly original New Zealand flavoured re-telling kids will love! Alive with music and magic, The Frog Prince combines all the elements of live story-telling with the comic high-jinks of traditional pantomime, LOTS of audience participation and SINGING! “Now lend me your ear and watch it unfold,
THE STORY … Prince Englebert, the handsomest prince in the universe, is rude to an old lady. Little does he know she’s a witch, and to teach him a lesson she turns him into a frog. When the nasty Petunia kicks Princess Matilda’s special golden rugby ball into Froggy’s pond, Matilda promises she’ll take him to live with her in the palace if he’ll get the ball back. Of course she runs home with it and leaves Froggy hopping mad … and madly hopping after her!
What happens when he gets to the palace, meets King Tobias the Terrible and becomes Matilda’s rugby trainer?
All will be revealed in the fifty minutes of fun and frolics that is THE FROG PRINCE.
June 29th – July 10th
Bookings: 03 477 83 23 or www.fortunetheatre.co.nz
Showtimes: 10.30am, 1.30pm daily – no performances Sunday
For more information contact 03 477 1695 firstname.lastname@example.org
Featuring Nayda Shaw Bennett, Patrick Davies, Mark Neilson
Review by Sharon Matthews 30th Jun 2010
The Frog Prince is a truly wonderful piece of children’s theatre, perfectly pitched to please a younger audience, and with enough delightfully clever comic action to keep any adult minders amused and appreciative. And, ummm, just in case you were wondering, no-one paid me to say that.
The writer and director Sarah Somerville, of Phineas Phrog Productions, has taken the narrative framework of the original story, given it a bit of local flavour by including a golden rugby ball as a causal factor, and hinged the dramatic denouement on a triumphant rugby team try-out. There is even a joke about farewelling Carisbrooke!
I won’t recapitulate the story, not only because you should know it anyway, but also since only the bare bones of the traditional fairytale remain, the thin plot used only as a platform onto which the director and cast endeavour to cram as man y colourful costumes, crazy characters, heart-warming values, and audience participation elements as possible.
The actors – Nadia Shaw Bennett, Patrick Davies, and Mark Neilson – are fantastic. They work together like a well coached team, tossing snappy dialogue in the air, and playing off each other during some lovely pieces of physical comedy.
Mark Neilson is particularly impressive, outrageously inhabiting a range of characters from Max the Marvellous – the Greatest Story-teller in the Entire Universe – to Petunia Poopersnot, most popular girl in school, but possessor of distinctly dastardly rugby tactics!
Nadia Shaw Bennett is a proud and bossy Princess Matilda, prone to “emotional outbreaks,” although she learns quite a lot during the show, and is not quite so proud by the end.
Patrick Davies is a “gorgeous” Prince Englebert Augustus Eugene Brown the Seventh, who transforms into an extremely fetching frog. My only quibble would be that the eye watering bright orange of his princely jerkin is possibly not the most flattering colour on him, but this is more than outweighed by his absolutely fabulous frog costume.
Neither my programme nor the web-site list the individuals behind the Phineas Pfrog Productions creative team, but costumes, set, and props are perfect. Bright, bold, simple, uncluttered … Designed to appeal to a child-like imagination. I particularly like the giant “life remote”, which enables us to be fast-forwarded through any boring bits of the plot such as, for example, the weeping prince bewailing his transformation into a frog (an amphibian, not a reptile, as he makes sure we know. How could I not enjoy a show that checks its zoological facts?).
Now, as any parent knows, fifty minutes is a looooong time to ask any child to sit still for. This production solves that problem by never letting the audience sit still. Right from the get-go it is apparent that this theatrical show is going to be a collective enterprise. Within the first thirty seconds we are being told off by Max the Marvellous for not shouting “hello” loudly enough.
This is only the beginning; audience participation is required for swimming coaching, hopping advice, forming a live band, and jiving at the palace ball. Special mention must be made of the unwary but very sporting adult audience member dragged up to join our team on the stage to demonstrate swimming technique. She seemed very calm about this; obviously dealing with small children develops nerves of steel.
Although I was traumatised to find that I am less co-ordinated than your average four year old, there is something magnificently liberating in being allowed, well actually, encouraged, to jump up and down and scream “he’s behind yoouuuu!!” at the top of my lungs. This might sound like an easy job, but trust me: this sort of audience participation in unskilled hands can go horribly, horribly wrong.
Shaw Bennett, Davies, and Neilson are not only powerhouses of unforced energy; they are in total control of the show. And all three look as though they are having fantastic time, their joyous and unmistakably genuine enthusiasm infecting their audience.
And, of course, “It All Ends Happily Ever After!” I accepted my praise for being a good audience member, as I felt that in spite of my lack of manual dexterity I had acquitted myself well, and puffed my way out of the theatre feeling exhilarated, and a bit exhausted by all this activity.
I would totally recommend this show, in fact, I’ve just arranged to borrow a friend’s children during the school holidays and I’m going back. Children’s theatre this good needs to be supported.
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