Rapunzel at York Theatre Royal

Who can refuse a good old fairy tale, especially when it is staged at the York Theatre Royal?

Mike Kenny’s modern retelling of the Brothers Grimm’s Rapunzel transforms the familiar tale from good and evil into something a little more closer to home. Currently playing in the De Grey Rooms Ballroom, the Tutti Frutti production uses a simple set and three-person cast to charm and engage the audience; the simplicity works well, moving away from the garish gaiety that tends to lend itself to pantomime productions of traditional stories. The room setting adds to the set with the decadent chandeliers appearing as stars above Rapunzel in her tower.

It can be nothing short of a master skill to navigate the hour show with an enormous amount of hair – the most ingenious prop of the play

The production is aimed at children and as a result, much of the humour naturally finds its way through to the little ones effortlessly. With catchy songs, dancing and bright colours, it’s clear that the primary focus of the play is to entertain and keep the attention of the youthful audience. The three-man cast worked well together to keep the pace of the piece up. Chipo Kureya’s portrayal of Rapunzel was wonderful, cleverly moving her way through the character’s changing age and personality. Indeed, it can be nothing short of a master skill to navigate the hour show with an enormous amount of hair – the most ingenious prop of the play. Rafi (Danny Childs), Rapunzel’s newfound friend, was full of energy and humour that established himself as a clear favourite for the children. Nicola Blackman was a clear show stealer, however, as her performance justly reflected her illustrious career. Playing Nan, she did not only provided comic entertainment for the children watching but also presented a more sombre, serious tone to the piece when required.

Those familiar with the story may question the presence of her character and inquire after the wicked witch who imprisons Rapunzel in the tower; indeed, one girl who sat next to me certainly was pondering the same question. Yet, in this modern retelling, the world is not made of black and white, but rather just the middling grey matter that we all find in life. The characters frequently remind each other – and the audience – that people are not always kind and that life is, as it were, not always a fairytale. Rapunzel is not trapped in her tower by evil but protected from it by her loving grandmother; Rapunzel in fact appears to love her world and the woman who creates it for her, asking for the tower to be built higher so she can see more of the world from her window.

The characters frequently remind each other – and the audience – that people are not always kind and that life is, as it were, not always a fairytale

This altercation to the traditional story perhaps went over the head of the majority of those watching; but to the adult audience, it certainly provoked a lot more thought than was anticipated. With the absence of the obvious motivations for Rapunzel to leave her tower, we come to see a more realistic bildungsroman and a lifelike parent-child relationship. In this, we primarily witness the untold story of Rapunzel’s ‘captor,’ Nan’s urge to protect her ‘prisoner’ and her loneliness swells as Rapunzel grows up – and ultimately, away from her. It is hard to watch without reflecting on how the story mirrors our own experience with the parents or children in our lives.

Amongst the melee of traditional and Disney remakes, this show provides a refreshing uplift to a timeless classic. Heart-warming and stimulating, Rapunzel is great entertainment for fairy tale lovers of all ages.


Following their successful visit to the 18th Assitej World Congress in Warsaw, Poland in May 2014 and then KidsFest Hong Kong in June, Rapunzel is now playing at York Theatre Royal from 6th – 8th May.

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