Rumplestiltskin

“Felt rushed and lazy”

Advertised as ‘a new spin on the classic fairy tale’, Eastern Angles’ Rumplestiltskin is a half-hearted attempt to create mystery and magic at Sir John Mills Theatre in Ipswich. 

The plot follows the miller’s daughter after she gets locked in a tower and tasked with spinning straw into gold. We see an array of characters come to her aid, but help doesn’t come cheap and there’s a rather unique price to pay.

When you first enter the theatre, the atmosphere is fantastic, with the front of house spaces having been decked out for Christmas, the festive drinks and snacks on offer at the bar, and the set that begins as soon as you enter the auditorium then runs right alongside you all the way to your seat. This wasn’t the only immersive element of the show, but it was the only one that was done well as the others consisted of subpar and unimaginative lighting (by Penny Griffin), awkward audience interaction, and character roaming which fell a little flat. 

The costumes (managed by Faby Pym) felt disappointing in comparison to the other visual aspects of the show, as Elizabeth Wright continues to impress with her scenic designs and makes great use of the small space she has to work with. 

The same can’t always be said for the direction by Kevin Dyer - who also wrote the show - as it is evident at times that the actors are struggling with the traverse configuration and the restricting stage layout that accompanies it. This was demonstrated by the repetitive and predictable blocking caused by the fact they had unnecessarily limited their options for the sake of one standout set piece that, despite being beautiful and well crafted, simply took up too much room. 

Something good to note is that it was truly theatre all ages could enjoy - as so often pieces will be marketed as such but it is actually just made for young people with a few innuendos thrown in there for the adults. This is one trap that Dyer has successfully avoided.

The rest of the script, however, felt underdeveloped and muddled as the time period in which the story is set is often ignored which would be ok if it was done creatively or for a specific reason, however it is not. Instead it seems to be an attempt at humour, but rather than taking it as an opportunity to be clever or comment on relevant social issues to engage the audience, it felt rushed and lazy, and in turn didn’t elicit the quick laughs it seems they were after. 

This isn’t the only area of the show that was confusing, as it felt like the King, played by Will Castle, thought it was a pantomime and everyone else was performing some really lovely family theatre. This may be because there was no designated choreographer despite there being multiple dances, or the fact that most of the time Castle was moving around the space at double the speed of everyone else for no apparent reason. If such bold choices are to be made there needs to be clear intention and objective to support it and unfortunately Eastern Angles were lacking in that on this occasion. 

Maia Elsey was the saving grace in her role of ‘The Girl’ as she created the much needed moments of stillness and silence on stage to combat the overstimulating and often cringey sensation provided by all other departments. Her emotional range was smoothly navigated and at no point seemed melodramatic, she had comforting stage presence and seemed to be the glue of the company, and to top it off her voice was amazing. I really enjoyed listening to her sing which is a high compliment given how underwhelming Patrick Dineen’s music and lyrics were.

It’s such a shame as this show had the potential to be very well done but ultimately it wasn’t a successful theatre experience as there are too many flaws compared to the few positives. 

This show was reviewed on the 8th December 2023.  Rumplestiltskin runs at Sir John Mills Theatre, Ipswich until the 6th January 2024.  Tickets available here: Rumplestiltskin | Eastern Angles

Review written by Katie McConnell

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Photo credit: Website images 

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