Rumpelstiltskin proves that enthusiasm and onstage talent cannot spin gold from a poorly written book.
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Ezra Juanta, Matt Crook, Michaela Burger, Paul Capsis in Rumpelstiltskin. Photograph by Shane Reid.

Rumpelstiltskin is another musical fairytale reboot co-production between State Theatre Company of South Australia, Windmill Theatre and the creative team behind the award-winning Pinocchio. Once again they have plundered the back catalogue of famous fairytales and cobbled together a less-interesting, less-coherent and less-enjoyable modern version; cheekily using the fairytale’s well known name to attract an audience.
In the well known fairytale a King shuts a girl in a room and demands she spin the straw into gold or he will cut off her head. An imp-like creature appears in the room and spins the straw into gold in return firstly for jewels and then eventually for her first born child. In this modern version the a young woman named Harriet wants to enter the word of fashion and gives an apple and then a whistle to a vulgar imp so that she can get a job in a ‘fashion emporium’. We are told that one of the imp’s ancestors mated with an onion and consequently he is so ugly that he can’t be seen in public. The Imp is the worlds most famous designer, Rumpelstiltskin (Paul Capsis) but he is so ugly someone else pretends to be him to increase sales. When her best friend wins the heart of the vain model who is pretending to be the designer (Matt Crook channelling Derek Zoolander), Harriet does a deal with Rumpelstiltskin to double-cross her best friend Tweetie and get the man. Greedy, stupid Harriet does not realise she has given up her first born child as payment for this magic love potion.
In the original the heroine is an innocent but in this version she is not even a heroine, just a selfish, stupid and cruel dolt which begs the question – why should the audience really care about a predicament she was solely responsible for?
The promotional material for this musical play makes it clear that the production, despite being called Rumpelstiltskin, is about something the fairytale is clearly not, namely ‘Two people, once best friends…torn apart by desire for the things they cannot have’. But this description is false – the play is not about this. Best friends? No; the relationship between Harriet and Rumpelstiltskin could never be described as being that of ‘best friends’ – they’re acquaintances at best. ‘Torn apart by desire for the things they cannot have’?; No, Harriet does desire the model husband’ but Rumpelstiltskin never expresses a desire to have a child.
At two hours (with a ​20 minute interval) the show is too long, both for the subject matter and the intended younger audience. Much of the post-interval material served little or no narrative purpose; there was a random fashion parade (where the exiled Crow and Rat magically reappear as if they haven’t been exiled), and a few glib songs that are as forgettable as they are expunge-able. This needless and unentertaining padding should have been trimmed.
Most of the children in the audience seemed to be confused and a little bored by the incoherent,  inconsistent and overlong plot. Also, some material was inappropriate for the audience. A sexually suggestive reference to adult underwear accompanied by vigorous pelvic thrusting seemed inappropriate for the intended audience. References to Beverly Hills 90210 and Madonna’s music also seemed out of place. The song ’Credit is a Ticking Time Bomb,’ a cringe-worthy and unsubtle Public Service Announcement about personal finance, most likely went over every kid’s head. The kids did however enjoy the spectacle whereby an oversized baby did a poo in his nappy while saying ‘whoopsie’; the creatives must have liked it too because they chose to close the show with a repeat of this very weak joke.
Paul Capsis clearly revels in playing dark grotesques and delivers a decent performance. Michaela Burger’s sweet singing voice and consistent portrayal of Tweetie provides the acting highlight of the evening. Ashton Malcolm delivers a perfunctory performance as Harriet and Matt Crook overacts (as required) suitably as Malcolm. For no explicable reason Elena Carapetis and Alirio Zavarace, who are both quite good, speak in what are broadly European accents (sometimes eastern and sometime Mediterranean).
Jethro Woodward’s music was suitably evocative and energetic, but perhaps lent too heavily on previous scores. Jonathon Oxlade’s simple bright sets were well complemented by Chris Edser’s charming projected animation.
This production of something resembling Rumpelstiltskin proves that enthusiasm and onstage talent cannot spin gold from a poorly written book.
Rating: 2 ½ out of 5 stars

Director: Rosemary Myers
Cast: Paul Capsis, Ashton Malcolm, Michaela Burger, Elena Carapetis, Matt Crook, Ezra Juanta, Alirio Zavarace
Writers: Rosemary Myers and Julianne O’Brien
Designer: Jonathan Oxlade
Composer/Musical Director: Jethro Woodward
Animator: Chris Edser

Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide Festival Centre
11-30 October 2016

David Finch
About the Author
David Finch is a lawyer and aspiring writer. He has previously reviewed arts and film for the ABC. He tweets film reviews as @filmreview4U