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The Princess and the Pea review at the Unity Theatre, Liverpool

Graham Hicks inThe Princess and the Pea at the Unity Theatre. Photo: Brian Roberts Graham Hicks inThe Princess and the Pea at the Unity Theatre. Photo: Brian Roberts
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Nina Hadjiyianni, directing her fourth Christmas show for Unity, has chosen to turn a traditional fairytale into a parable about a shipwrecked migrant, who finds herself shunned by the local community in the fictional country of Meane.

What’s a little uncomfortable about this re-working is that, in Act I, it makes every character feel unsympathetic and, frankly, rather scary. Meanwhile, the narrative is somewhat too slow to develop until after the interval. In Act II, the story remembers it needs to be told for children and the piece shifts up a gear, as we head toward a mattress-piling denouement.

The cast of four offer faultless performances in their multiple roles, and there’s serious costume changing going on, with Graham Hicks’ Minister of Meane also engaging with the audience as the eponymous Pea, and Keddy Sutton’s evilest of queens appearing in numerous guises.

Josie Cerise is a petulant outsider until her identity as a princess is confirmed, but she gives committed delivery. The real star of the production is Duncan Cameron, whose characteristically physical, expressive, princely performance is tremendous.

Unity’s stage becomes traverse, allowing for a minimal but nonetheless detailed set, brought to life by excellent lighting and sound design and Patrick Dineen’s music has an almost Sonheimesque air.

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A slightly wayward adaptation of a fairy tale still boasts fine performances, splendid music and loving production values