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Queen’s garden play review: ‘If you are a fan of the film you would have loved this theatrical rendition’

Honestly, I was more than happy to be spending my hungover Saturday relishing in the summer heat whilst watching Queen’s garden play last weekend regardless of how good the play would actually be. Being a fan of the film but not having watched it for ages, I was intrigued to see those big numbers put to the Oxford stage. But I am happy to report that it is safe to say, they delivered above and beyond my meagre expectations.

The in-the-round staging choice with one main stage and several smaller supplementary ones around the garden was a smart one, and it made it all the more dynamic and involving as an audience member. The play was a flurry of activity for all three hours, yet worked succinctly all the while; likely down to thoughtful direction which it must thus be commended for. And I’m sure both I and the cast and crew were thanking God for the bout of good weather we were having that made the experience all the more enjoyable as an audience member (I do not think the play would have had as great of an effect if it were confined to a black box or constructed under a marquee…).  

The use of comedy in the production was brilliant, a favourite moment being the performance of Agony by the two princes in the middle of the first half. It was camp and dramatic and altogether hilarious. The princes were expertly cast and worked well together, heightening one another’s comedy, whilst still singing expertly. And these small moments of comedy were what really drew the piece together for me. With the many characters and overlapping plotlines it can be easy to overlook certain aspects of the narrative, but this production had stars in every role that did not take away, but only added to, one another’s immense theatricality. 

There were also incorporated elements of dancing and movement which added another layer to the piece. Particularly prevalent when the baker and his wife tap danced together. This was an unexpected joy for me (having a love for the style after having done tap dancing all through my childhood) as it is such an underutilised form of dance in this type of musical theatre. Additionally, it emphasised the bond between the couple, making me root for their love filled quest through the forest all the more. 

There were some amazing singers in this production, many of which each had their shining moment of stardom. However, it was Cinderlella’s melodic tones that struck me most. She not only sang beautifully alone, but harmonised with other actors effortlessly. I’m no music student, but I would safely say she has some serious skill. 

The costume was well done, with all characters having very distinctive clothing which helped to distinguish everyone, especially in the busier scenes where all the characters were on stage at once. The playful girlish red-riding-hood outfit was probably my favourite. A mini skirt, brown wicker basket, cropped red cloak and long red hair ribbons accurately exemplifying the little girl we picture from the storybooks. 

You can see the hours of rehearsals that have been put into this production even just in the way the cast work so well together. The moments of physical theatre, such as the momentous climbing of the beanstalk, demonstrated this effort from the actors and made the piece feel all the more cohesive. And the level of singing skill was the best I’ve seen in a student production for a while. If you are a fan of the film you would have loved this theatrical rendition. I commend both cast and crew for giving me the perfect way to spend my hungover Saturday. 

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