THEATRE REVIEW: Rumpelstiltskin ★★★★
The New Room Chapel, Bristol
Friday 4th October - Friday 1st November 2019
In the hidden streets of Bristol, magic is truly being spun in in the form of Insane Root Theatre's production of Rumpelstiltskin, playing at The New Room Chapel in Broadmead. Brought to life by a trio of exceptional talent from Norma Butikofer, Katie Tranter, and Dan Wheeler, the folk story surrounding the Millers daughter and the mystery shrouded around the antogonists name is so lavishly told and compels you throughout the entire 70 minute running time.
From the start we are captivated into the world within as the doors are flung shut and we are ushered with the help of our newfound storytelling friends into the heart of the chapel, with seating all around from chairs and benches at the sides, to the use of the the pews in the open centre which give the most immersive and effective experience with the performers between you and in your personal space. As the king and the miller's daughter read out the plethora of potential names the creature may respond to, it's here where the setting and surroundings burst with vibrancy. Hannah Drake's direction sees the use of levels with the raised alter housing our two protagonists taking the lead on the search for the name, whilst at other moments the upper balcony is used for further interactions, with Drake leaving no corner left unturned and in the dark, making great use of the rather unconventional theatre space.
Matt Grinter's storytelling is possessive of great destiny with a tale that never lets up of the fantasy, weaving in the tension to then rip out the focus to go on and remind us, and the actors, that this is merely a story and they are performing for our delight. To start the evenings proceedings with a rhyming tale in the foyer and capture the smiles of the audience around, it's the smoothness of the writing that's ultimately endearing. Samuel Wilde's design, with assistance from Alana Ashley, teleports us with subtle scenery to make great use of the thrust staging. As the miller's daughter slaves away at the spinning wheel, the straw is stunningly brought to life with beauty and wonder from the neon strips and fairy lights embedded within which allows Tranter's face to glisten in emotion and facial expressions.
The creatures design also allows for moments of genuine puppetry which will have you grinning widely from the creativity and terror as Butikofer embodies the voice and characteristics with tremendous variety and chilling moments which will have you shivering. Flashbacks from Jethro Compton's Benjamin Button at the Southwark Playhouse were also flooding through from the costume design and the effortless flow of the story with puppetry. With bursts of folk songs radiating throughout, especially during the retelling of Pinoccho from the daughter, it's the perfect remedy to the otherwise intense adventure unravelled around us, heightened from Edmund McKay's lighting which during the suffocating towards the daughter as she confronts the voice lurking in the shadows is chilling, whilst otherwise being a great source of atmosphere.
Overall, Insane Root Theatre's production of Rumpelstiltskin is a dynamic and magical tale which will have you challenged and on the edge of your seat for those unknown to the folk story. Richly told from a trio of energetic and charismatic storytellers, the evening will leave you with a smile on your face and an evening to hopefully remember as we exit and out back into the real world.