From hairdos to heroes with Rapunzel at Cambridge Junction

PUBLISHED: 13:42 15 December 2017 | UPDATED: 13:42 15 December 2017

Rapunzel at The Junction, Cambridge Photograph: Claire Haigh

Rapunzel at The Junction, Cambridge Photograph: Claire Haigh

ILIFFE

The Junction is inviting you to let your hair down this Christmas with its take on the classic story of Rapunzel. Andy Veale and son Harvey took them up on the offer.

Let’s face it, there are not many fairy tales that have been left untouched by the hands of the Disney corporation. Through animation and live action, Walt’s worldwide business has made big bucks from reimagining children’s stories, adding some catchy tunes and some pricey merchandise.

Rapunzel has not been overlooked – the last Disney reincarnation was Tangled, which followed the story of a princess, stolen away from her family and forced to live in a tower.

Dancing Brick, a collaboration between Valentina Ceschi and Thomas Eccleshare, recreates the tale at The Junction this Christmas and has followed a different and darker path. And that is no bad thing. The oh-so-sweet Disney princess heads for the subs’ bench and is replaced with a Rapunzel who happily describes herself as a “monster who lives in a tower”.

It’s not the only change. A royal kingdom is exchanged for a set which flicks between a tower in the woods and – wait for it – a hairdresser’s/beauty salon.

Rapunzel’s evil aunt, Dame Gothel, has locked her away, concerned the child would bring shame on her in a society where superficial beauty rules all. There is one exception, a hairdresser called Prince who also happens to be the aunt’s fiancé.

Cast with just three actors, this musical manages still to be rich with characters, humour, twists and turns, and includes some touches of pantomime to give the children the opportunity for some interaction with those on stage.

Dame Gothel – Candy Markham – is a deliciously twisted diva whose darker side evolves, providing some of the best comic – and musical – moments of the show. Markham plays well off Nelson Ekaragha as Prince, whose facial expressions were one of the highlights for my seven-year-old son, Harvey. The fear, the loathing and confusion flowed across his face in a single expression – all perfectly timed with the dastardly deeds of his fiancée.

Up in the tower Rapunzel – Zelina Ribeiro – plays the innocent long-haired ‘monster’ who, of course, is a natural beauty in a shockingly shallow world. Ribeiro brings a lot of fun to this role – as well as to the other characters she plays – easily winning the support of the audience.

While this show is aimed at the whole family (some jokes have been toned down after complaints), the Rapunzel story itself is tightly associated to the Disney princess version, and some boys may fear it’s too ‘girly’ for them. But have no fear. Markham’s evil aunt provides just the right amount of darkness to send those Disney princesses running in fear, and the writing provides plenty of laugh-out loud opportunities.

It may, however, also have the dads running in fear. One lucky man from the audience was encouraged on stage and given a ‘makeover’ in the beauty salon, dealing with his imperfections. If you’re the one who is chosen then just think about the joy it will bring to the children, go with the flow and, well, just let your hair down.

Rapunzel runs until December 31. Tickets are £15.50 or £10 for concessions, from junction.co.uk.

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