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BWW Review: PIPPI LONGSTOCKING, Royal And Derngate

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BWW Review: PIPPI LONGSTOCKING, Royal And Derngate

BWW Review: PIPPI LONGSTOCKING, Royal And Derngate

A new stage version of the classic children's stories about Pippi Longstocking makes its premiere at the Royal and Derngate this December. Continuing the venue's tradition of having a pantomime in the larger auditorium and something different in the smaller theatre, this is a proper family treat.

Led by Emily-Mae as Pippi, the small cast sing and dance their way through this joyous celebration of the power of being yourself and having fun. Adaptor Mike Akers has come up with a plot that centres around the disruption to ordered same-ness of Little Town caused by the arrival of Pippi - a shipwrecked pirate's daughter, without adult supervision or any sense of how "normal" people should behave.

It would be very easy for Pippi's behaviour to be annoying, but Emily-Mae brings a sense of innocence and wonder to Pippi that makes her endearing and keep you on her side through all the ructions she causes. As Mr Settegren, Alex Parry provides an authority figure for Pippi to chafe against, and someone for the audience to boo. All of Hanora Kamen's three characters are great, but I particularly liked Mr Nilsson (a monkey).

Katie Sykes has designed an abstract, Scandinavian-inspired set - minimalist, but full of hiding places for things for Pippi and her friends to find. The circular centrepiece also provides somewhere for the actor-musicians to sit as they take turns playing the music. Stu Barker's score has a folky-gypsy sound and is toe-tappingly good. My only quibble is that the music sometimes overpowers the singing - and the lyrics are so witty that it seemed a shame to miss out on them.

The two children in our party were spellbound - barely fidgeting at all as the action unfolded. At the end they pronounced it "really good and funny" and, judging by the applause, everyone else agreed too. Astrid Lindgren's creation turns 75 in 2020, and I hope that this gets a wider run to mark the anniversary - it deserves it.

Pippi Longstocking is at the Royal and Derngate until 31 December

Photo credit: Manuel Harlan

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From This Author Verity Wilde