Whilst on Sunday afternoon I had the pleasure of seeing Happily Ever After? in the final throes of rehearsal, this evening I had the opportunity to see the full production brought to life on stage. Overall, the play was a little hit and miss. Whilst there were aspects that I really enjoyed, and cast members who really got into the spirit of the show, there were moments characterised by awkward audience silences and a couple of slightly bland performances.
The set was very simple, utilising only two small raises and a storybook backdrop, with tables and chairs when needed. The ambience upon entering the auditorium was wonderfully ethereal, with a gentle mist covering the stage. However, this gentle mist became somewhat less gentle when a technical fault with the haze machine resulted in the show starting 20 minutes late. None the less, once the stage had cleared, the show began.
Standout performances came from Alastair Hardie, Lorna Johnson, and Roshan Salgado D’Arcy, in their roles as The Big Bad Wolf, Esmerelda (Cinderella’s Ugly Stepsister), and Prince Charming respectively. The show has a pantomime vibe, a spirit which these three throw themselves into wholeheartedly. Hardie’s sexy, tough guy routine is consistent throughout, Johnson plays TOWIE-esque bitch to hysterical perfection, and the socially awkward toff played by D’Arcy had some wonderful bumbling moments in which you couldn’t help wanting to run on stage and give him a hug.
Other performances I enjoyed included Liam Hegarty as the troll, Joe Curran as Rumplestiltskin, and Thomas Davies as Hansel. Hegarty’s troll is unendingly amusing and definitely got the most laughs from the audience. Curran has a physical presence on stage that embodies everything a modernised goblin should be. And Davies’ accent just gave me the giggles in a way I can’t describe.
My main criticism in the preview was the issue of pacing and energy, and by and large, this criticism still stands. Comedy, particularly anything remotely pantomime or farcical in nature, requires energy in excessive quantities that needs to be maintained even when things go wrong. Whilst the energy overall had improved, the pacing unfortunately had not. And unfortunately, when the pace faltered, the energy dropped, and the comic aspects of the script suffered as a result. Equally, this was a problem when there was any stumbling over lines or misplaced sound cues. When the cast get into a rhythm, the flow is fantastic. But when that rhythm is interrupted, it takes a while to be regained. Because of this, there were extended sequences when the action on stage became very lethargic and the jokes just didn’t hit the audience in the way they should.
Whilst there were some individual performances I really enjoyed, due to the vital importance of energy and pacing in a show of this style, I can’t I say I was blown away by the production as a whole. However, whether this was a result of the ever inevitable opening night glitches is yet to be determined.
Happily Ever After? is being performed in the Annex Theatre from 20th to 23rd November at 7:30pm, with a matinee show at 2:30pm on Saturday 23rd November. Tickets are available here