Review: The Sword In The Stone, The New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich, until Jan 30 2016
- Credit: Archant
Part panto, part West End-style musical, part superior tribute band gig, the New Wolsey’s rock’n’roll pantomime has become something of an East Anglian institution during the past 15 years. Now writer-director Peter Rowe has added a dazzling new title to the theatre’s festive line-up.
The Sword in the Stone, Peter Rowe’s eighth rock’n’roll extravaganza, tells the story of Sprout, a bashful foundling, who under the guidance of Merlin discovers that he is really Arthur, the once and future King of all the Britons. Aided by Sean Kingsley’s wise and learned Merlin he wrests the crown from the wicked Mordred’s head – played with joyous malevolence by Wolsey regular Steve Simmonds – defeats the evil Morgan Le Fay (Georgina White relishes the boo hiss nature of the role) before going on to woo Guinevere his one true love, played by the engaging Lucy Wells.
Sandy Grigelis’ hapless hero Sprout/Arthur enjoys a fabulous chemistry with Lucy Wells and the pair happily manage to prevent their characters from being too sickly sweet. They present themselves as plucky, headstrong youngsters rather than a dazzled pair of star-crossed lovers. You believe that they have what it takes to unite a country and rule a kingdom.
Nevertheless, they need help in their courtship and this is supplied by Graham Kent’s hilarious panto Dame, Bernadette Broadbottom who has some romantic problems of her own thanks to Sir Cedric Scuttlebutt’s passionate pursuit of her ample charms. Daniel Carter-Hope plays Sir Cedric with commendable leering enthusiasm.
The top notch cast seamlessly integrate a dozen pop classics into the performance while also delivering some breathless physical comedy while also playing two or three instruments to a virtuoso standard.
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Peter Rowe keeps the pace racing along, delivers some wonderful comedy moments while not undermining the power of some true pop classics from artists as diverse as Queen, Take That and Edwin Starr. The comedy channels the spirit of Carry-On and Peter Rowe’s innuendo-filled script delivers plenty of double and single entendres which hopefully will float over the heads of the more junior members of the audience who will find the plenty to laugh about in the pratfalls of the future knights of the round-table.
This is a show with something for everyone.
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The set, designed by Barney George, is a masterpiece which, through curtains and revolving panels, whisks the cast from forest to castle to a dragon’s lair while the atmospheric lighting conjures up a concert stage and Arthurian landscapes with impressive ease.
A hugely entertaining twist on the King Arthur legend which works brilliantly thanks to excellent writing and energetic performances from a talented cast