As seasonal productions go, the New Vic Theatre in Newcastle-under-Lyme consistently delivers heartwarming, feel-good adventure – year after year. In fact, they’ve built a fine reputation for it on the national stage too – as the national news once again has this production listed in their “top picks” with good reason to.
Theresa Heskins (Artistic Director) has written every festive show here since 2009 and she is without doubt an excellent writer of adventure and this show is no exception.
Prince and the Pauper is the tale of very similar young boys, one who is born into royalty and the other to a poor family. The Pauper finds himself in the lap of luxury, over-fed and waited on at every turn whilst the Prince finds out for himself what life is like for his subjects. The pair could be twins, and therefore nobody realises that they have swapped roles – which is a wake up call to them both!
The lead characters are played superbly by Danielle and Nichole Bird, twins who therefore add an extra level of realism to the production! They are exceptional throughout and there is something quite incredible about watching identical twins playing opposite characters – a real treat in showmanship for the audience.
A large cast fill the theatre-in-the-round with energy and pace from the very first note, which incidentially is played by the multi-talented cast themselves – all have an instrument and play at different times to suit the piece. Music is written (and directed) by James Atherton who has created a very elaborate score that works well. It is interesting to read where some of the inspiration for the music arrived from in the programme notes, including songs and (use of) instruments from the Tudor era to add an extra touch of authenticity.
Comedy is bursting out of this script and the cast capture it wonderfully to the delight of the audience, not least from Gareth Cassidy, who plays Mary Tudor and a Beefeater. The hilarious manor in which he performs both characters is ludicrously funny, as is the transition between his characters. Without providing a spoiler, it is safe to say that his performance will have you in tears of laughter.
A beautiful set design sees the auditorium transformed (in full) into a Tudor village with stunning costume to complete the effect.
There are many, many highlights of the production. There is acrobatics, live music, clever props, puppets and a style of stagecraft that is unique to this theatre. Children of all ages were mesmerised, and so were the adults. Whether you’re thinking of taking the family, or friends, this is exactly the adventure you need. The New Vic have once again delivered a seasonal treat in fine style.
Book your tickets at: www.newvictheatre.org.uk.