Windmill’s modernised Rumpelstiltskin, co-written and directed by Rosemary Myers, is visually spectacular. Designer Jonathon Oxlade’s concentric circles and tiered steps provide an attractive platform for Chris Edser’s never-ending images and projections; Gavin Norris’s lighting effects illuminate the stage in surprising ways; composer and musical director Jethro Woodward’s music and songs are appealing, and the cast energetically draws us into a world of magic and mayhem.
Rumpelstiltskin may be about an ugly character but the production is beautifully conceived and presented. It begins with words telling the tale of the birth of the inhuman and monstrous Rumpelstiltskin and his subsequent confinement, then proceeds to explore a world of fashion, design and exploitation.
Paul Capsis is a superb Rumpelstiltstkin, with his dynamic vocal range and playful interpretation of what is, traditionally, a villainous character with evil intent. Although characters talk of him being a monster, his costume and make-up don’t indicate that he is very different from others on stage.
Capsis is versatile, finds comedy within the role and is particularly good at pretending to be an old woman. Ashton Malcolm is delightful as Harriet, the girl who has been teased at school because of her background; she is mostly sweet but can rapidly revert to a tough teenager when necessary.
Michaela Burger, as Tootie, taps and sings, while Matt Crook plays the Malcolm, the curious human form of Rumpelstiltskin who manages his merchandising empire. Alirio Zavarce, as the fearful Rat, and Elena Carapetis, as the determined Crow, are comical and entertaining and, when not on stage, join the band.
Act two sees Ezra Juanta appear as the Baby and he makes the most of his time on stage; he is cute, captures the innocence of childhood, has us believe he is torn between two parents and then lets rip like Michael Jackson.
There is a lot to like about Windmill’s Rumpelstiltskin, especially the cast, music and design. It features numerous effective scenes: when Harriet searches for her baby, the technical effects enhance the narrative, creating memorable images and engaging theatre.
The show has some magical transitions, such as when Harriet offers something personal of herself and it is transformed into another object, or even a person. The set can be anything: a dungeon, a department store, sewers, a forest, a landscape for a car chase and a tunnel.
There are a lot of songs in this show and it often feels like an MTV pop song video clip; not all are necessary and some take us away from the narrative. Now that it is up and running, the creative team may be able to reflect on whether Rumpelstiltskin is designed for eight-year-olds, adolescents or adults. I hope they can be objective and take some tough decisions to turn an excellent theatre production into an outstanding experience.
Windmill Theatre Company and the State Theatre Company of SA are presenting Rumpelstiltskin at the Dunstan Playhouse until October 30.
Read CityMag’s interview with the show’s designer, Chris Edser, here.