What is a fairytale? Something with heroes and villains, something with Disney princesses and princes or something more deep and meaningful? The Clockmaker’s Daughter is what the writers Michael Webborn and Daniel Finn believe a fairytale to be. The story of a clockmaker who creates a daughter to run like clockwork. What he’s not banking on is that she has her own agency, that she can make her own decisions, and that she can therefore leave his house and live in the real world. The only problem, like any clock she needs winding to keep going. So what happens when she leaves the house? Well she meets a boy and makes lots of friends until it all goes wrong.
From walking into the theatre I knew I was in for a good show – the set said it all, full of clocks and detail designed by David Shields. Especially clever was the use of the bookshelves and table to create different scenery from bridges to wishing wells. To produce such a huge set in such a small theatre must take great talent. As well as the set designer other people behind the scenes also deserve a mention, notably the director Robert McWhir. The use of space was excellent and to coordinate such a large cast onto such a small stage takes creativity.
Onto the musical itself now and my first impression of this show was that it has great music. From the first song (The Turning of the Key) I knew the music was going to be fun and catchy (A friend of mine assures me it’s in the key of E major and he also assures me that this is the happiest key that music can be in). With hints of Irish folk and traditional fairytale magic it portrayed the fun and laughter of this musical along with the great sadness that follows. Some of the most emotional endings only come because of the great happiness earlier in the show which makes the pain all the more poignant and this musical achieves that perfectly. I am not ashamed to say I cried at the end!
The show begins at a ceremony in the town of Spindlewood – the gathering on the last night of winter to turn a key, attempting to wake a perfectly still statue of a woman. But how did she get there? The clockmaker, Abraham, sings of his grief at losing a daughter and so makes another, Constance, as she wakes and explores the world. Jennifer Harding brought this woman to life perfectly from the robotic to the romantic, from the joy to the unhappiness, the emotions were so believable.
When out and about she meets lots of people and discovers what it feels like to make people happy, making all the women beautiful dresses. But one man, Will, is perhaps the most happy of all, falling in love with Constance and Alan McHale produced a standout performance as the man fighting for the woman he loves, even if she is just clockwork.
The villain of the piece is not your traditional fairytale villain. In fact, I’m not sure Ma Riley (Jo Wickham) can even be considered a proper villain. The loud, brash, Irish dress maker whose business is in decline since the appearance of Constance and who is also, deep down, afraid of losing her son to the same woman is perhaps doing what she can to protect herself, even if she goes about it in a villainous manner.
There are too many cast members to name and this is a real ensemble piece with everybody playing their part well. As a stickler for detail some small things annoyed me such as a box that had been supposedly retrieved from a well in the story, still being in the well on set, however, as my only complaints are that small it shows how brilliant the big things are. Overall, great music, great story, great set, great cast and therefore great show.
Review by Emily Diver
The Clockmaker’s Daughter
An original British faerytale by Webborn & Finn
Spindlewood is home to a Clockmaker.
A tormented genius, out of place in a town where each day mirrors the last and the people are content.
But Abraham Reed has a secret. . . something the simple folk of the town below must never discover.
Through methods hidden even to himself, the Clockmaker has created something much, much more than a machine. . .
Wednesday 27 May – Saturday 4 July