By Brenda Harwood
A packed house of children and parents escaped a miserable winter afternoon into a colourful world of high fashion, high-jinks and terrible underwear in the Fortune Theatre’s production of The Emperor’s New Clothes.
Adapted from Hans Christian Andersen’s original children’s story by New Zealand playwright Gregory Cooper, the show is a collaboration between Fortune Theatre, Counterpoint Productions, Improsaurus, and the University of Otago Theatre Studies programme.
Co-directed by directing honours student Jordan Dickson and Fortune artistic director Jonathon Hendry, The Emperor’s New Clothes features energetic performers Trubie-Dylan Smith, Nick Tipa and Rachel Chin – each in two roles.
Improsaurus artistic director Smith is a masterful improviser, getting the action started as the Emperor’s dramatic costume designer and getting the children excited and ready to take part in the show. After his designs fail to find the Emperor’s favour, and he is fired, the trouble really begins.
Smith returns to give a stand-out performance as the wicked trickster Rufus, with an oh-so-clever scheme to trick the Emperor out of his gold, and make him look silly into the bargain.
Nick Tipa makes the most of his opportunities as the foolish Emperor, whose vanity leads him to fall into Rufus’ diabolical trap and end up parading in some truly ridiculous underwear. In the dual role of the Emperor’s mannequin, Tipa gives a delightful, wordless performance – with some rowdy support
from the children.
Rachel Chin proves to be a quick-change specialist, as she tackles the dual roles of the Emperor’s daughter and Rufus’ not-so-bright sidekick Dufus. She is superb in both roles, contrasting the two characters nicely, and winning the children’s sympathy.
Accompanying the performance and adding fun musical cues to the action is musical director Zac Nicholls, who remains on stage throughout.
Bright and sparkly costumes, by Maryanne Wright-Smyth, simple yet effective set design by Peter King, and lighting design by George Wallace all add to the fantasy feel.
All in all, The Emperor’s New Clothes is entertaining for all ages. The show is part of the Cadbury Chocolate Carnival and continues until July 23, with performances at 11am and 1pm.