Don’t be put off by the title: this is a completely fresh reworking of the 19th century story by the Brothers Grimm. Fresh is a bit of an understatement though. Writer and director Simon Jolly has taken themes dear to the hearts of the younger generation - the fascination/absurdity of talent shows; the pitfalls of materialism; being heard by the older generation and following your heart - and spun them into a script of pure gold using the familiar characters plus a few new ones.
The result is a smart, sparkling hour that has something for all ages. Yes, the props are rubbish (literally), the prosthetic noses unconvincing however funny, the wigs well-wiggy, but in true Pantomime fashion the audience is welcomed into the the collusive joke, particularly the teleportation gag which had me snorting.
The young cast from the WCs at the Winston Churchill School were clearly delighted to perform. Indeed my only criticism is that a few of the cast rushed their lines, though as this was the first performance I’m sure they will relax into their parts as the run progresses. Matt Harding in the title role was confident without being cocky and his timing showed great promise for future Fringe comedy. Tom Estall as the Miller was suitably ridiculous. Elliot Weaver as Dreadsnort was played with Blackaddery evil. Lily Johnson, who played the royal grandchild Lotte, conveyed such convincing teenage petulance I wondered whether she was typecast. Prince Jim (Harry Pettifer) and Gurda (Chloe Elliot) made for a cute love interest. But my favourite was the Musical Jester, Francis Townsend, whose Ukelele rap narration was inspired.
About two thirds through (around when the smaller audience members started to fidget) there was some brilliant audience participation which successfully regained the younger ones’ attention; quite a genius move in children’s theatre and one that should perhaps be included more often. The final scenes, rather than becoming a straightforward ‘happy-ever-after’ plunged through more twists and turns than a corkscrew rollercoaster until the final conclusions were reached. Afterwards, Jessica aged six said, “It was good” whilst Ethan (seven) and Haley (six) agreed it was “Interesting”. But, as ever, it is the volume of the applause at the end that reveals the audience’s satisfaction and I can safely report this audience was very satisfied indeed.