Once Upon a Mattress, 2 Stars

Once Upon a Mattress
Upstairs at the Gatehouse
5th to 29th March 2020

“Many moons ago, in a far-off place, begins a magical musical comedy journey into the world of Hans Christian Andersen’s beloved story of the princess and the pea. But this isn’t your usual fairy tale, and Princess Winifred isn’t your usual fairy-tale princess. The kingdom in which she seeks her prince seethes with a very adult problem, which won’t end until a very stubborn Queen Aggravain allows her son to marry. Alas, he is his mother’s prince, and is any princess really good enough?”

Review by Richard Lambert, 2 Stars

Some of the music by Mary Rogers in ONCE UPON A MATTRESS does sound very Rodger and Hammerstein, but that’s where the similarities end.

It’s basically a musical fairytale of “The Princess and the Pea”.

Presented in the well-established beautiful Upstairs at the Gatehouse, the bar is set high for musical productions. Alces Productions version doesn’t quite fulfil the potential of this musical. It’s quite pantomime. With corrugated cardboard as the Set header, edged in glitter but not painted, and gaps in the joins, alongside 2 wheeled clothes rails covered in cloth, and 4 obligatory boxes to move around on stage, it’s a very stripped back look to a show crying out for a little glamour and creativity. It would be ok for a drama school, or the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, but falls short on expectations in this London venue.

The costumes don’t fair much better. I suppose their designs are based on paisley carpets or mattress toppers but they don’t quite work, are badly fitted, and look uncomfortable and clumsy.

With lighting that has no colour, and a central centre stage dark spot, there are shadows on the actors faces. It’s a brave lighting designer who focusses steeper then 65 degrees – the result is bright foreheads and dark faces. The Set was ignored in the lighting plan which is a shame as it might have helped lift it a little.

The overall look and feel created by this production Team unfortunately feels very “rehearsal.”

But thankfully the band were amazingly good! This 6 piece held the show together under the brilliance of Musical Director Jessica Douglas, who is also credited with the orchestration. Never drowning out the performers and adding a full richness to the show. I loved their live performance and orchestration.

The choreographic numbers by Chris Whittaker and Marcus Foreman lift the production and are quite delightful.

The all white cast of 10 do a really good job with some glorious singing and harmonies throughout.

Definitely a show you could take your grandmother to watch!

(Photo credit Andreas Lambis)

Further Information

Director Mark Giesser
Music Mary Rodgers
Lyrics Marshall Barer
Book Jay Thompson, Dean Fuller and Marshall Barer
Producer Alces Productions

Dates March 5th 2020 – March 29th 2020
Tuesday – Saturday, 7.30pm
Sunday matinees, 4pm
Saturday matinee on March 28th, 3pm
Ticket Price £20 – £16 (concessions) / £10 (previews)