The Princess Question

So The Guardian review is up, *** from Lyn Gardner – a critical but balanced piece which recognises the charm, invention and lightness of touch of the overall production. And of course there is an honorary nod to our Mr Pea’s ‘winningly warm performance’. You can read the full review here, as well as summaries of other reviews here.

josie as the girl

The review also asks a question which has always been for me central to Kevin (Dyer) and Nina (Hajiyianni)’s interpretation of Princess and the Pea – Is the girl really a princess at all? I’d go further. Does happily ever after have to mean being established or becoming royal,does it have to end in a wedding? In a previous blog (here) I scribbled:

In our Princess and the Pea the girl is very real. Not a fairy tale princess, but a hard edged lass whose travelled from a far off land in a search of sanctuary and safety. She’s very definitely from the school of hard knocks. A brilliant survivor, a true hero, and very much ‘one of us’. A girl who, I suspect, will feel more ‘real’ to the thousands of under 12s who will see the show either with their school or families.

For me the fact that the creative team have allowed space for the audiences themselves to decide (or indeed) believe whether she is a princess or not is artistically brave and exciting.

It also reflects something that Nina and I have often found ourselves talking about – and not just about this piece. A discussion about how what is represented on stage re-enforces or challenges society’s norms and assumptions (I can’t help but nod to the recent Harry Potter casting announcement ). (see note below too)

When I glanced out across the audience on preview night and saw a group of young children dressed in gloriously fabulous Princess dresses I remember taking a huge deep breath (our hero doesn’t even have a dress, and wears a hoodie for much of the show). But telling the story of a brave migrant girl, who fights for what she believes in, turns her back on riches and puts families and friends first feels real and relevant.


graham as a pea

Needless to say what most of our audiences will remember is the giant Pea and his under the bed antics, but what sits around that might just plant the seed of a different type of hero. And that’s something I’m very proud of.

Princess and the Pea runs at the Unity Theatre until the 9th January before transferring to Whitby Hall, Ellesmere Port for a week.  Follow the links for ticket availabilities etc.


Note: Noma Dumezweni (who has been cast to play Hermoine in the new Harry Potter plays) was the original WOMAN in Kay Adshead’s brilliant The Bogus Woman, a performance which I still remember to this day (see here).  Interestingly the revival of The Bogus Woman (by Theatre in the Lake) featured in our Autumn season, paired with Lampedusa.


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