The Enchanted Pig
Young Vic Theatre Winter 2006-2007
Thoroughly enchanting, thoroughly delightful - the only criticism I can make of the Young Vic's holiday show is the title, which doesn't give a hint of what it's about or how excellent it is.
The Young Vic has chosen to open its rebuilt and enlarged home by skipping over the standard holiday fare of pantos or fairy tales and going for broke by offering, in partnership with The Opera Group, an original family opera. And both theatre and opera are to be enthusiastically celebrated.
With music by Jonathan Dove and libretto by Alasdair Middleton, The Enchanted Pig starts as a variant on Beauty and the Beast as a princess challenges destiny and is forced to marry a pig.
Her ability to accept her fate and recognise her husband's inner virtues is rewarded when he turns into a handsome king.
But the pair are separated by the evil witch figure (who wants him for her daughter), and the princess must undertake a hazardous journey to find and free him. Along the way she is aided, and given unforced lessons in love, by the North Wind, the Moon and the Sun.
The princess is thus a far more central character than the pig, and her quest a far bigger part of the evening than the enchantment plot. But I'm too enchanted myself to cavil.
The whole thing is charming enough to delight parents, and clever and inventive enough to hold children under its spell. And if, in the process, it opens the kids up to the beauties of operatic singing and storytelling, that can only be a bonus.
Jonathan Dove's music is rich and melodic without ever being overpowering, and may remind some older audience members of the accessible-operatic mode of Gian Carlo Menotti. (Put another way, there are hummable melodies).
Alasdair Middleton's story and lyrics are witty and moving in turn, and the staging by John Fulljames and design by Dick Bird are colourful and exciting.
Caryl Hughes (alternating with Anna Dennis) makes a spunky and determined heroine while Rodney Clarke (sharing the role with Byron Watson) is sympathetic as he-who-must-repeatedly-be-saved.
In a small cast doubling and quadrupling roles, John Rawnsley and Nuela Willis prove most audience-delighting as a comically bickering Mr. and Mrs. Northwind.
Oh, and the new Young Vic is an airy and impressive playing space that is a very welcome addition to the London theatre scene.
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Review of The Enchanted Pig - Young Vic Theatre 2006