Charming – Old Red Lion Theatre

IMG_3081This is not a fairy tale. This is not a pantomime. This is Charming.

King Charming has four sons. These four sons have made a bet that whoever marries first will inherit the kingdom. Their poor half-brother is alone in France, moping over Belle who he released because he loves her. The other four mock him – men own women, love doesn’t exist and he’ll now be stuck as a beast forever because he let her go.

However, as they each try to find a girl whom they can marry and therefore win the bet, they start to realise that maybe there’s more to women than meets the eye.

Charming, written by Ross Howard, is a fantastic concept. The likes of Enchanted and Frozen have proved that Disney is moving away from its saccharine love story and bringing reality into the mix. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite live up to expectations.

The Disney references keep coming, yet Rumpelstiltskin (Matthew Winter) also crops up in a romantic twist that sees him threaten to steal the unborn twins of Rapunzel (Zakiyah Rawat who, although perfectly channelling her character, shouts a bit too much) so he can raise them with Prince William (Alex Frisby).

It is funny, but not hilarious, and why Prince Rupert (Tom Everatt) believes Rapunzel to be 12 (and therefore very much underage when he ‘puts his trowel in her garden and goes digging’) is never fully explained.

It’s also a bit confusing in places, especially if you’re not au fait with fairy tales. At one point we see Cinderella (played brilliantly by Gemma Harvey) and Prince Simon (Alexander Stutt) share a moment, but then this is forgotten, as is Sleeping Beauty who Simon swore to marry originally.

The Butler (Felicity Wentzel) is completely pointless – it feels like they found a puppet in the prop cupboard and figured they might as well use it. Why he places a hip flask on the table (itself balanced precariously far too close for our liking) is anybody’s guess as it’s not used again!

Matthew Winter as The Beast is excellent – lurking on the stage as the audience enters, stretching and growling – but it is the girls who really steal the show. Felicity Wentzel shines as the drunken Fairy Godmother in a way reminisce of Jennifer Saunders and Antonia Draper brings an unknown feistiness to Snow White.

Charming is an amusing, chaotic retelling of our favourite fairy tales. It’s a clever idea, but it just doesn’t quite deliver and ultimately descends into carnage!

Reviewed by Michaela Clement-Hayes

Charming is playing at the Old Red Lion Theatre until 3 January 2015