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The Wooden Frock review at West Yorkshire Playhouse Leeds

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Reaching back to the folk tale tradition Cornwall’s Kneehigh Theatre has chosen The Wooden Frock for its current tour. This might not seem a familiar tale but there are curiously similar stories in other languages and cultures.

Little Mary’s mother dies. Mother has made father promise to marry whoever fits her wedding ring. Mary tries on the ring and it fits. Wearing the eponymous fetching wooden number our Mary jumps into the ocean and floats away to another country. There to meet the obligatory Prince and family.

Kneehigh Theatre gives the story terrific mood and atmosphere. There is live Celtic music mixed with recorded songs. Musician Stu Barker does much to set the eery and nightmarish tones.

It is a captivating and richly inventive production. Mary’s floating away is achieved with a puppet, and gorgeous visuals but to have just one puppet in the entire show is disappointing.

Amanda Lawrence’s playing of Mary has an impressive haunting quality. Alex Murdoch’s playing of a servant called Ronald gives her plenty of comic opportunities and they are seized. The other cast members each have two parts and all are excellently played. Mike Shepherd’s appearance as Mary’s Nurse sets the humour standard.

The humour is zany and often silly but the silliness comes from inspired thinking. Watching the cast enter with upturned white umbrellas stuck into their long boots is a momentary puzzle. Then the actors hiss and squawk and we realise that the umbrellas are in fact geese. Cue hysterical giggles.

Production Information

West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds, January 30-February 14, then touring

Tom Morris, Emma Rice
Emma Rice
Kneehigh Theatre, BAC, West Yorkshire Playhouse
Cast includes
Amanda Lawrence, Mike Shepherd, Bec Applebee
Running time
2hrs 30mins

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