Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

At National Theatre

Silly Kings- National Theatre Wales , Cardiff Castle , December 22, 2013
At National Theatre by Silly Kings- National Theatre Wales Adapted from Fairy Tales by Terry Jones and Michael Foreman

Few people are better qualified to write silly stories than the Python Terry Jones. Put those tales in the hands of National Theatre Wales and the result is Silly Kings, a wonderfully funny show that ranks as one of the most enjoyable Christmas entertainments I can remember.

The setting helps enormously. We are in a magnificent mirrored spiegeltent tent inside Cardiff Castle walls and although there is a gale blowing outside we are immediately transported to a world of medieval nonsense crammed with zany characters, hugely inventive stage craft and, well, total silliness.

The story doesn’t matter and it would ruin the show for those who have not seen it but it revolves around a daughter wanting to marry her prince but having to get over the problem that her father, the king, has become so totally silly that there is no way her intended father-in-law would allow the marriage.

This becomes the structure of the overall show but along the way we have what I assume are a range of other Terry Jones tales adapted by Katherine Chandler that each have a message, such as facing your fears, finding courage, giving as well as receiving, the danger of greed or appreciating your own talent, and are all played out with gloriously simple, effective staging.

Director Jo Davies has managed to weave all the sub plots of these tales together in one flowing action within that main story, making full use of the tent setting, where the audience sit on hay bales and benches or booths at the edges, and overcoming its limitations. Having the characters appear out of the rear doors of a white van through curtains gives the feel of a travelling show and also another silly dimension to the knights and castles setting.

The cast is uniformly silly and take to their roles with the relish that is required to carry off such whacky humour and special mention has to go to George Fuller as the silly king, Herbert, who has us in the palm of his hand from the moment his striped sock feet appear – I am not giving anymore away. Remy Beasly plays a feisty Princess Fishy, and roles within the other tales, with Maxwell James her dashing Prince Derek. Stephen Casey is the arrogant King Rupert, and again also plays roles in the allegorical tales along the way including the King of the Fairies, and what unusual fairies they are.

The band of knights played by Keir Charles, Hannah McPake, Sion Pritchard and Matthew Woodyatt slip seamlessly into a range of magical or just daft characters along the way with the marvellous leather clad cake-loving Beast particularly inspired.

Add to this catchy and sometimes silly songs and music, funny “old women” voices that take you straight back to your Python childhood, and just enough audience interaction. Kids will love it but it is also a great evening out for us silly grown-ups.

Until January 4

Reviewed by: Mike Smith

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