Fantasy filled with melody
The Drum, Plymouth
Liz Hall
, The Stage

If you have ever been unsure about what is really important in life, this refreshing and thought-provoking production, staged in the Drum, will help you gain a true sense of value.

This new fantasy musical, loosely inspired by Hans Christian Anderson's The Nightingale and the Emperor, is an exciting, thrilling work. It fuses Gary Carpenter's enchanting, lyrical and on occasions abstract score with Simon Nicholson's vivid storytelling.

Although the initial scene in Act I may be a little inaccessible for the younger members of the audience - which it aims to court, director Annie Castledine and musical director Timothy Sutton succeed in Act II in bringing out the magic of this dynamic journey of self-discovery. Their endeavours are enhanced by Richard Aylwin's imaginative set created by the Theatre Royal props department.

Elizabeth Mansfield gives an outstanding, high-energy delivery as the eccentric and failed Toymaker. Also her rendition of I don't like fish was particularly amusing and memorable. Brendan O'Hea is a wonderfully petulant and spoilt Emperor, grasping the essential values of life in his last moments on earth. Nigel Richards as his Mandarin mentor, gives an exuberant all-singing, all-dancing performance.

Amber Sinclair, whose enchanting, clear voice makes her a natural choice for the Nightingale, also gives a spirited interpretation of the Rogue Toy.

The use of five musicians, playing a variety of instruments - from harp, alto/baritone saxophones and recorder to double bass, acoustic/electric guitar and banjo - adds further impact to this intriguing, powerful Plymouth Theatre Royal and Clear Day production.

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 © 2000 Gary Carpenter