THE entrance to the Tobacco Factory auditorium in Bedminster has been decked out like a castle, with colourful climbing roses and twinkling lights, and the stage, surrounded on three sides by audience seating, is similarly packed with the apparatus of enchantment.
This is for The Light Princess, the Christmas show produced by the venue in association with Peepolykus, adapted from George MacDonald’s fable about gravity and gravitas. Billed as “suitable for age six and older,” John Nicholson’s production is, as you would expect, full of inspired clowning.
The King and Queen have a daughter, but then forget to ask the king’s jealous older sister (Makemenoit is her name!) to the celebrations, and so the angry woman curses the baby … not to sleep, as you might expect, but by taking away her gravity. This allows the introduction of scientists and experts to the show, explaining a bit of physics here and there.
At the same time as the king, yclept Alan, is insisting on obeying the rules and traditions of the Court, the palace staff, influenced by the example of the free-floating princess, are shedding their inhibitions and donning colourful undies.
The only place that gravity works for the princess is under water – a phenomenon that throws the experts into a flurry and the prince into love.
The story is told by a cast of just six in a whirl of clowning, multiple accents, water, beautiful shadow puppetry and music, written, conducted and performed by Verity Standen.
Amalia Vitale, as witch intern Lauren, Humdrum the Russian quack and other wonderful cameos, is the undoubted star of the show.
Suzanne Ahmet is the weightless – and often heartless – princess, with Julie Black as the good queen and the wicked auntie, Richard Headon as the king and Richard Holt as the charming prince.
If you’re looking for a traditional Christmas pantomime in Bristol this season, the only venue may be the Hippodrome, where Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs will be encouraging audience participation from 5th December to 3rd January. But the alternative shows at the Tobacco Factory and the Old Vic provide all the magic, music and laughter you could want for the festive season.
Photographs by Farrows Creative