My fondness for children is well known so when the call came out for a volunteer to review ‘a delightful fairytale tail with a twist’ you can imagine mine was not the first hand raised. However, being free at the time it was on, I took myself out to Tower Hamlets and the Half Moon Theatre to see Happily Ever After.
The play starts as the audience gets settled – youngest kids on the cushions at the front, adults on the seats – with two Paiges gently cleaning the checkerboard floor of the palace, moving gently, nicely co-ordinated with Patrick Dineen’s music. Once the performance proper starts, the Paiges begin filling the walls of the palace with portraits of previous kings and queens who had ruled the country. Then, with a fanfare, we get to meet The Queen (Bruno Mendes) herself. She does all the Queenly things, waving, smiling and pretending to take an interest in the people that have come to see her. But it’s obvious she is losing as she has a tendency to fall asleep when people talk to her too long. What the Queen would like to do is hand the throne over to her son Prince Bertie (Paul Curley) but there is a problem. Bertie is unmarried. Although he gets introduced to various princesses (all played by Eve Shotton) none of them engage his interest until finally, a princess arrives with her brother (Ady Thompson). The two of them hit it off immediately and very soon a marriage is arranged and the crown handed over, with everyone living happily ever after.
Rather unusually for a review, I’ve told you pretty much the whole story here. This is because Happily Ever After, is aimed at children and they have a tendency not to read reviews that closely but it’s useful for the adults to know what they are taking the little ankle biters to see. The twist to the story is that the prince marries the princess’s brother rather than the princess.
The play is all told through movement, no words, and great music. Does it work? Yes, it really does. Director Nina Hajiyianni obviously knows the audience the show is going for and, together with Designer Rebecca Palmer have put together a charming 45-minute tale that kept the youngsters – and the adults – entertained and, without making a massive thing of it, introduced the idea of same-sex marriage as being an everyday occurrence.
I was really impressed with the way the story had been written, no bells, no whistles, no rainbow flags or massive demonstrations, just an ordinary story of two people who meet, fall in love, get married and love happily every after, which the kids just accepted as fact.
Overall then, Happily Ever After was a really great show. The cast were all superb – and hats off to Eve Shotton for not only playing a number of princesses but making each one a real individual. Every element worked and there really was nothing to find fault with. Even after the show, the cast stayed on stage so the audience could get their photos taken with them. As the audience left, there was a lot of excited and very positive chatter and my favourite piece of overheard conversation was when a young child said to his adult “so, what was the twist?” Pure magic.
Review by Terry Eastham
The queen is growing impatient. Her lazy son will never be king until he grows up, gets married and starts acting like one. She invites hundreds of princesses from across the land, hoping to find the perfect bride for the prince, but he isn’t impressed by any of them. Then one day a princess arrives accompanied by her brother…
Happily Ever After is inspired by the Dutch children’s book King and King, by Linda De Haan and Stern Nijland. Action Transport Theatre have worked with The Proud Trust to create a play for children which tells the story of two princes who fall in love and live happily ever after.
The six performances at Half Moon are part of the first national theatrical tour of a play for children aged over five with a gay theme.
The production uses Action Transport Theatre’s trademark highly visual, wordless storytelling and comedy clowning, along with original music by Patrick Dineen, to engage children in high-quality art. Previously the play has been performed in over 50 schools in the North West and seen by more than 3,000 children, where it has received an overwhelmingly positive response.
Ady Thompson – Prince Lee and Paige
Paul Curley – Prince Bertie
Eve Shotton – Princesses and Paige
Bruno Mendes – The Queen
Director – Nina Hajiyianni
Designer – Rebecca Palmer
Composer – Patrick Dineen
Action Transport Theatre presents
Happily Ever After
Ages 5+ | 50 minutes
Half Moon Theatre
43 White Horse Road, London E1 0ND