The extraordinarily talented creative team at Arts1 presented Twisted Tales. The tales brought together classic children’s stories including Rumpelstiltskin, The Elves and the Shoemaker, The Little Match girl, The Emperor’s New Clothes, The Brave Tin Soldier and Hansel and Gretel. They took the plot points, twisted the themes, re-wrote the characters and changed the endings so nothing was predictable! The whole production was theatrical from start to finish and even though each story was self-contained, there was a beginning, a middle and an end.
This was a massive undertaking with 400 performers ranging from adorable 4 year olds right up to the age of 80! With 650 stunning costumes, all perfectly created and contextual for each story, beautifully created and sourced by Alison Walton.
The first story was The Brave Tin Soldierand began with “Something in the air tonight”, sounding slightly disembodied (in a good way!) with ghoulish dancers wafting through the story, based on “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe”. Natascha Norton, as the mother had such a commanding yet warm presence. The three singers in “When she loved me” had voices that blended beautifully but Yurara Ohno’s voice was a pure as a choristers.
One of my favourite parts of the show was where when the youngsters, clad in yellow macs, in an homage to “Singing in the Rain, tap danced to “April Showers” and with their matching brollies, this sent the cuteness factor through the rafters!
“Just beyond the stars” was sung exquisitely by Ellis Restall, the Dream sequence with Tin Soldier surrounded by aqua-inspired ballerinas had an ethereal feel about it.
Next came The Elves and The Shoemaker. Jack Nuttall and Molly Davenport were excellent as the shopkeepers, voices blending perfectly, I loved the tone of Molly’s voice. Jack as Charlie, in an homage to Kinky Boots. It was so touching to see the older children take such good care of the little ones but in an unpressurised way but I was so impressed with the tots confidence and they knew where they were meant to be at the right time. Again, you’d have to have a heart of stone not to be moved by the performance of the tots when they sneak in to make the shoes under the cover of darkness. Choreographing all those kids tapping is no mean feat!
The Little Match girl had something of the Oliver Twist about it, unsurprisingly as the backdrop was Victorian. The Christmas carol made me feel all festive even though it was the middle of May! “Somewhere out there” beautifully sung by Lily Harvey, as the Match girl, aged 12, Lily has such poise, it’s hard to take your eyes off her. This is such a sad tale but supported by the love she has for her grandmother, which was palpable. Attention to detail with props, was impressive – a vintage bike and then the spinning wheel in Rumpelstiltskin. This began with folk-sounding music played by the phenomena that are the actor/musicians, led by the brilliant Sam Kenneth on the fiddle. I noticed her prodigious talent and I foresee a very busy future for her! Melissa Streeter, as princess, a very gentle presence, Megan Kemp as Rumpelstiltskin is an amazing dancer as are the rest of the ensemble in their haunting contemporary dance number. The dance evolved into Riverdance with Irish dance with the familiar sound of the bodhran. The music then became choral when she’d given birth to her child, then the celebration of a ceilidh/Russian dance, with very young dancers who kept up with the older dancers. Upon naming Rumpelstiltskin, the music turned very much darker verging on heavy rock/trance culminating in his destruction.
Hansel and Gretel began with an eerie version of “Teddy Bears Picnic” – who knew? Followed by a gathering of witches who held in meeting in an Apprentice-style/confessional scenario – who had made the most pies and passive aggressively trying to outdo each other. Hilarious! Head witch Natascha Norton had excellent comic timing and will make a fine actress. Then the Beyoncé band came on clad in orange and I loved the Jake Maiden choreography hip hop, commercial dance whilst banishing the wicked stepmother. Showcasing another different dance genre, it was fierce! Luca Willemburg as Hansel will be appearing in Joseph at The Palladium, another feather in Arts1’s cap! It’s been fantastic to watch Kory Trantum grow as a performer over the past 3 years and he played his part with such maturity, again, testament to Arts1 ability to nurture raw talent and develop it.
True to musical theatre format, the best and brightest was saved till the finale and boy, did it end with a great big colourful bang! The scene began with Madonna’s Vogue, models dressed for a masked ball, preening in front of mirrors in a mickey-take of the pretentiousness of a catwalk show, with the voice of Marie Antoinette threatening to cut off their heads! Then cutting to the adults doing an Arabian Nights Bollywood dance, moving to the youngsters in the “exotic bird category”. I was so impressed with the street-style fast-paced scene which followed, the dancer were so en pointe. Undoubtedly the stars of the show were young William Daw and Daryl Mills– what a great comedy duo this pair made, incredible on-stage chemistry in the The Emperor’s New Clothes. I loved William singing “We can do it” from The Producers “and I noticed him in Chaos and he’s grown even in that short space of time, one-to-watch. Equally hilarious in an Ab Fab, Patsy and Edina-meets-The Devil Wears Prada were Jen and Jan played with irony by Edith Whiteand Eleanor Simpson. Women really do exist like this in fashion!
Prince Ali – was the big musical number led by Myles Waby,Josh Aketse Entsie and Tia Antoine-Charles with an amazingly soulful voice!!! Huge credit must go to Isaac White for his utterly brilliant writing. He turned classic and not-very-cheery tales into easily identifiable contemporary tales with the relatability factor.
I so want to join the Adult choir! Incredibly professional without the stuffiness of a typical choir. There were so many different parts but the transitions were seamless and contextual, even with music and costume changes – this is simply incredible to watch.
I loved the homage to musical theatre and film, with references to Kinky Boots, Matilda, The Producers, Home Alone, Doctor Who and The Proclaimers in 500 miles from home. There was literally a scattering of MT, ballet, commercial, tap, jazz and ballet, something for everyone, showcasing everyone’s talents equally – which is what makes Arts1 so special, it is the sum of many parts, no one is taking all the glory.
I also need to mention all the behind-the-scenes work by the Chaperones, the Teaching Team, the sensational lighting, the tech team, the excellent MD, all unseen but so vital. I absolutely loved this show, it enthralled all ages and showed, yet again, the sheer versatility of the incredible team at Arts1 led by Rebecca Carrington, James Grimsey, and Ross Jardine Wright.
Bring on the 6thform showcase on 13thJune!
Award-Winning Radio Presenter, Arts Influencer and Writer