Rumpelstiltskin, a family Christmas show by Windmill Theatre Company and State Theatre Company on tour from Australia, is wonderfully bizarre. It’s a bit like Balamory crossed with A Series of Unfortunate Events. Larger-than-life characters navigate the darkness of a scary world by frequently bursting into song.
Writers Rosemary Myers and Julianne O’Brien transform the story of Rumpelstiltskin into an anti-capitalist fable. Fashion designer Rumpelstiltskin grants the naïve Harriet’s wishes for riches, in return for her most prized possessions. Harriet makes a Faustian-pact with Rumpelstiltskin when she buys her last wish on credit, mortgaging the life of her future baby.
The white concentric circles of the set are brought to life by Chris Edser’s animations. They set the cartoonish tone of the production, along with Jonathan Oxlade’s psychedelic costume designs.
Jethro Woodward’s pop-musical score is atmospheric, if not particularly memorable, and is performed with skill and commitment by the ensemble.
The heightened, absurdist performance style can be grating, particularly the female characters’ high-pitched squeals. Paul Capsis manages to be almost genderless in his portrayal of Rumpelstiltskin, embittered and almost deranged by neglect but somehow still sympathetic. The comic highpoint of the production is Ezra Juanta’s appearance as Baby: a full-grown man in a pink romper suit, belting out a rock number.
The show is marketed as suitable for kids eight and over but older children may find it patronising in its broad characterisation and clear moral. It is pretty dark though, like all the best fairytales are. Remember to read the terms and conditions, kids.