Chanted spells, snatches of songs and a wolf chasing us through our dreams contrast with the clinical sparseness of an institution.
Taking place in a dream world halfway between reality and imagination, Rapunzel flickers between two intertwined storylines. The blend between the real world of a hospital and the magical world of forests and towers feels fragmented at times, and the second, modern day storyline isn't exactly clear but the company create a rich tapestry of storytelling.
Rapunzel, born unwanted and imprisoned in a tower, is the girl who is forbidden to grow up. Chanted spells, snatches of songs and a wolf chasing us through our dreams contrast with the clinical sparseness of an institution.
The structure of the piece is unbalanced, with the exposition taking far too long. The second half, once Rapunzel has grown up, is more satisfying; there is more clarity around the narrative and the portrayal becomes much darker, although the writing can be simplistic at times. It is reminiscent of a fairytale but too childish for the grown-up audience. Some of the ensemble movement sections feel forced or unnecessary and don't give the audience much credit for understanding what is going on.
Some of the most watchable and engaged actors onstage are members of the ensemble, who are perfectly committed. Larissa Teale plays a brave and bright-eyed Rapunzel, who must maintain a childish boldness even as she ages, while Rachel Barnwell is soft and captivating in the double role of Rosa and Rosie.
Accompanied by haunting nursery rhymes and with a textured design of flowers and braids of golden hair, Rapunzel is deeply atmospheric, although it is sometimes a case of style over substance. Although some scenes, such as Rapunzel's birth, are disturbing, most of the play fails to scare or intimidate and we do not become wrapped up in the magic.