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Rapunzel, The Garage review: Fairytale fabulous and a magical treat for tinies

PUBLISHED: 14:21 03 December 2019 | UPDATED: 09:56 04 December 2019

My First Panto: Rapunzel is at the Garage, Norwich, until January 12

My First Panto: Rapunzel is at the Garage, Norwich, until January 12

Andi Sapey

My First Panto: Rapunzel is a magical introduction to theatre for small children - and wonderfully entertaining for their grown-ups too.

My First Panto: Rapunzel is at the Garage, Norwich, until January 12My First Panto: Rapunzel is at the Garage, Norwich, until January 12

It was my first My First Panto and it was fairytale magical - and fun, funny, engaging, immersive and full of joy. My three-year-old granddaughter also adored it.

The concept is both simple and inspired. The children in the audience are part of the show. They are soon skipping, toddling and crawling across the stage, babies sit mesmerised at the feet of the guitar-playing prince, pre-schoolers wander into the spotlight and exit stage left or right, pursued by a carer.

In grown-up terms, this must be theatre at its most pure, telling a story in such a way that those watching are part of it. Pantomimes go a few steps further than plays, with lots of joining in, actors talking directly to the audience, even inviting people on stage.

In My First Panto: Rapunzel the children are part of the whole show; sometimes a stray baby crawls across the stage, frequently a gaggle of small people are helping Rapunzel's dad with the cooking, performing a shadow-puppet interlude, joining Rapunzel's escape from the tower.

My First Panto: Rapunzel is at the Garage, Norwich, until January 12My First Panto: Rapunzel is at the Garage, Norwich, until January 12

Just three actors lead the show, performing, singing, dancing, playing guitar, violin and accordion, and welcoming the children individually with reassuring small-talk.

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Families are free to take a seat on the raked benches or on cushions spread around the set. Rapunzel herself came up to chat to three-year-old Charlotte. She is played with grace, charm and fun by Abigail Middleton who has worked on Disney Channel shows. The hugely engaging Prince (and Rapunzel's dad) is played by CBBC performer Stewart McCheyne and the Witch is a wonderfully nuanced performance by Emily Panes, teetering between sinister and captivating without ever descending to full-on scary.

All three are mesmerising, leading their troupe of mini followers into the witch's garden, up into Rapunzel's tower and far and wide through a fairytale land. This is not just for tinies either. It is laugh-out-loud funny for grown-ups in places, the starry set is beautiful and there is even the occasional moment of potential peril as you wonder whether the guitar-playing, leaping prince has noticed the baby right behind him. (He always has.) It's also not just for extrovert joiners-in, there is no pressure to take to the stage - watchers and wonderers will love it too.

My First Panto: Rapunzel is at the Garage, Norwich, until January 12 Credit: Andi SapeyMy First Panto: Rapunzel is at the Garage, Norwich, until January 12 Credit: Andi Sapey

The show is just an hour long and aimed at children aged up to seven. It is written and directed by Daniel Burgess, of All-In Productions, with music by actor and musician Lloyd Gorman, also originally from Norfolk.

Daniel grew up in Hemsby and remembers village pantos where the children would run to the front to sit as close to the performers as possible. It inspired his hugely popular series of My First Panto, Play and Circus shows, including Rapunzel running at the Garage until January 29 and Little Red Riding Hood which is at The Workshop, King's Lynn from December 16-29.

My First Panto: Rapunzel runs at The Garage, Chapel Field North, Norwich until Sunday January 12. Tickets: £12.50 adults, £7.50 children, under 1s free. Book at the Garage or on 01603 283382 or at thegarage.org.uk

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