Tuesday, 23 August, 2011

Edinburgh 11 – The Space @ The Surgeons Hall Venue 53 – 6, 9, 11, 13,16,18,20 August 10.30

Designed for children of all ages Charming! is a comedy that tells the story of how Prince Charming came to get married. During the story we meet Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and many other famous fairy tale characters.

Charming! is designed as a fast moving ensemble piece, and Steve Underwood’s set design reflects this. There is a single piece of set dressing – a small wooden tree centre stage that masks the entrance/exit.  The tree has a series of hatches that are used by the company to denote windows, doors and hiding places.  Other than this the stage is bare.  Its a practical and clever design but given that it is the sole piece of set the tree feels like it should have been far better dressed and painted.

Lighting design is minimal but perfectly reasonable save for a small dark area near centre stage.  Samantha Caroline Graper’s music sounds organic and nicely constructed but either the sound system or the recordings are muffled and bass heavy which means that we struggle to hear the detail of the music.  All told technically, Charming! Is well thought out but scrappily executed.

Charlotte P. Graper directs and writes with Karl Gernert who also  plays Prince Charming.  The script is good, cleverly twisting the  fairy tale characters into characters children will be more likely to recognise; Sleeping Beauty becomes a sulky teenager who doesn’t want to get out of bed.  The direction is reasonable as well, mixing knockabout humour and audience interaction with big bold characters.

Karl Gernert plays Prince Charming throughout as a narcissistic indecisive adventurer.  He is usefully skilled and creates a character that all ages can empathise with.  Chloe Jaynes plays Fleur (his frog sidekick)and gives a good performance in much the same vein.

The rest of the cast alternate roles, Georgia Lazell plays Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty’s mother.  She is occasionally guilty of not engaging enough with the audience but handles the multiple roles adequately.  Elizabeth Palmer plays Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, The Seven Dwarves and The Fairy Godmother.  Too much is asked of her and she struggles to adopt a playing style exaggerated enough to truly differentiate between all the roles, however, in difficult circumstances she acquits herself well.

Sadly, despite all the good character work Charming! is thoroughly spoilt by performances that are without exception under-energised and uncommitted.  Everything is in place for an enthralling experience but too often great opportunities are missed and spoilt.    At the beginning of the show Prince Charming!’s big entrance is staged so that he enters from the back of the auditorium – it should be thrilling for the young children  but Karl Gernert fails to engage them and the moment is lost.  ‘It’s moments like these that make me want to sing’ declares the Fairy Godmother at the end of the show.  Unforgivably, this is very obviously not the case.

Charming! does a great many things right, and with more energy and engagement there is potential for it to be a very good piece of simple and entertaining children’s theatre.  Currently, though, it is a missed opportunity that lets down its young audience.

Cast Credits: (alpha order): Karl Gernert – Prince Charming!.  Chloe Jaynes – Fleur.  Elizabeth Palmer – Sleeping Beauty/Rapunzel/Seven Dwarves/Fairy Godmother.  Georgia Lazell – Snow White/ Cinderella/Sleeping Beauty’s Mother.

Company Credits: Writers – Charlotte P. Graper and Karl Gernert.   Director – Charlotte P. Graper. Lx Designer – Uncredited  Fx Designer – Samantha Caroline Graper’s   Technical Operator – Charlotte P Graper.  Set Design and Construction – Steve Underwood.  Set Painting – Nik Gernert. Producer – uncredited. Company – . Website – www.act2online.co.uk/

(c) George Maddocks 2011


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