Welcome ladies and gentlemen to a land touched by fairy tales; The Wild Geese, The Stolen Veil, The Little Mermaid, The White Duck, The Frog Prince - they all have power here.
Indeed magic is in the air as national treasure, Prince Siegfried celebrates his 21st birthday. Well actually he is less than enchanted about his party. Not even a fairground from the deeper, darker parts of Russia nor the boxes of gifts that its mysterious owner, Rothbart brings can bewitch him.
These gifts include a cake slice which dismays him but delights his mother by playing both Happy Birthday and the Wedding March. She is keen that his birthday wish be that he meets the right girl at the forthcoming royal ball.
And then there is a music-box that plays the leitmotif from Swan Lake. Not that the traveling-show people wish to mention the S-word. The fairy tales in which they appear usually end badly and the siren call of those six haunting notes has a dangerous, fearful influence.
A stick for hooking the rubber inhabitants of The Duck Pond Game has more appeal, but is it really a game of chance? Not everything is as it may seem, and when he pulls Odin from the pool he is magically transformed under moonlight into his human form. Siegfried is enraptured as the fair finally becomes fun and the two take a sticky, candy-floss fuelled, dodgem ride, driving each other crazy. Racing the moon however is only a lovelorn, lunatic plan and Odin can’t dodge the dawn or his return to duck.
Come time for the ball, Rothbart is still in charge as he introduces Odile, the black swan of the piece. Can the Prince really resist a woman who can perform thirty-two turning Fouettés or has it all been wrapped up since the beginning? There is one final box to open.
This production really does provide all the fun of the fair as the cast dance, sing and clown their way through the classic tale. It may not have the Tchaikovsky score (other than those six notes), but it does have superbly sung live music that ranges from ditties, cheesy disco to heartfelt torch songs (think Antony and the Johnsons). There is even ballet of sorts mixed with modern dance, which might not win over terpsichorean purists but is done with flare and for the most part is highly effective.
Strong performances throughout pull off something that starts fey and fairy tale but takes a darker turn and manages to be both tense, tear-jerking and incredibly powerful. While the first acts are no doubt intentionally light to aid this transition they could be refined to be a bit less like a children’s show.
Returning from fairy tale land is never easy and it’s interesting to see the audience reaction. Some stand and applaud but as the lights come up a few say softly - “Oh, my God”.
Show Times: 2 – 24 August 2014 (not 12th) at 6.00pm.
Ticket Prices: £8 (£7).
Suitability: All ages.