“Ever After” at Chickenshed – 22/12/21

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In the last few days, the festive cheer has taken a bit of a dour turn, hasn’t it? We’ve not been out of the house too much in the last week or so but Eva and I had this treat in our diary and, with negative LFTs for the pair of us, we set off to do at least one fun thing this holiday.

And what a fun thing it was! “Ever After” is a big, raucous show that’s full of joy and energy. With four casts of 200 performers each, it must be a logistical nightmare to stage but it meant that there was always something to look at. The basic premise was that the Brothers – and possibly non-binary sibling – Grimm had mixed all their fairytales up and the result was what we were watching. Hansl and Gretl stumbled upon the Man With No Name and the twelve dancing princesses and all the tales wove into each other seamlessly.

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With such a busy stage, it seems difficult to pick out individual performers but there were a couple of people that kept catching my eye.  The lead dancing princess didn’t have any lines as far as I remember but she infused the character with an acute sense of mischief as she drugged the guards so she and her sisters could sneak out to dance. And her dancing was effortless but stunning. Every time she was on stage, she absolutely lit it up and the rest of the dancing princesses were exhilarating too. Eva’s very fond of “The Restless Girls”, which is a recent retelling of the story so she was delighted when the Queen first mentioned the trouble she was having with worn out shoes.

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The other person who really impressed me was the blonde signer. With the rotating and extensive cast I’m not quite confident in matching actor’s names to parts so I apologise for that but I think she may be called Maddie. Either way, she was amazing. Signing, acting, dancing and I think even singing at one point as well. The BSL in this show was so well integrated into the story that it just seemed absolutely natural. The signers were part of the story and mirrored what the main cast were doing. If an adult and child were talking together, an adult and child signer would be doing the same beside them. I’m probably not explaining it well but it was incredibly well done. It meant that any hearing-impaired audience members not only followed the dialogue but also all the nuance and emotion that went with it. Maddie’s movements when shadowing the wicked stepmother were sharp and flawless and her dance moves were similarly flawless.

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Oh, and the wicked stepmother (played by Bethany Hamlin) was also one of my favourites. She might have been pure evil but she had a lot of style. I would totally wear that purple dress. Also, she had a gorgeous singing voice. Admittedly, one of her songs was the only but Eva struggled to cope with – it was to do with eating children – but her sneeze was one of Eva’s favourite parts. I won’t say more than that but it an impressive sneeze.

Eva was very emotionally invested in the story all the way through. When the characters were desperately trying to guess the name of the Man With No Name, she was shouting it out in the hope they’d hear her. I should have explained to her that it wasn’t a panto and no-one was waiting for her input. When the characters finally worked it out, she let out an audible “yes!”, much to the amusement of the people behind us. Her overall verdict on the show was “amazing” and she liked it as much as she liked “Rapunzel“, which has always been her high benchmark for Chickenshed shows.

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Of course, just because I’ve singled out some of the performers for praise doesn’t take away from the excellent way the whole ensemble worked together. Everyone moved perfectly in sync and even the smallest child knew their lines and said or sang them well (having sat through many performances by my own children, this is in no way a given). Some of the best moments in the show were when the stage was full, such as the gloriously colourful court of the Queen:

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Still, I can’t say I’d fancy being one of her 16 husbands.

Ashley Driver, who I think we’ve seen before in “Mr Stink“, was a lot of fun as Hansl and Gretl’s father who talents included gardening, tongue twisters and marrying unsuitable women. The four Siblings Grimm were also very funny and, straight away, got the audience laughing.

We always enjoy our Chickenshed trips but there is something particularly special about a huge, fantastical show like this one. The sets, music and production values are some of the slickest we’ve seen at the ‘shed. It’s really worth seeing and it’s on till 8th January, so plenty of chances left…all being well.

For tickets and more info, click here.

Disclaimer: I received free tickets in exchange for a review. All opinions remain honest and my own. 

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