Pippi Longstocking Review

Astrid Lindgren's much-loved stories of Pippi Longstocking arrive on the stage at Northampton's Royal Theatre in time for Christmas. Adapted for the stage for the Royal and Derngate by Mike Akers. This magical tale of a 9-year-old girl is fantastically imagined on stage in a swashbuckling musical adventure.
Matthew Churcher (Tommy), Emily-Mae (Pippi), Hanora Kamen (Mr Nilsoon) and Philippa Hogg (Annika).
Photo by Manuel Harlan.
Telling the story of nine-year-old Pippi. After she and her father get shipwrecked in a storm, she is separated and alone except for her monkey and her horse. They head for the small town called Little Town where she knows the family villa, the Villa Villekulla is and where she can live. Along the way, Pippi causes chaos as she doesn't stick to the rules and meets a colourful collection of characters once she arrives in the town. Naturally, by the end Pippa does becomes the hero of the story by the end.

There's no denying that the first act is the weaker of the two. The production feels like it's stuck under the initial storm clouds for the first 20 minutes or so before it really takes off, but once it does it becomes really enjoyable with the second act being much slicker and moving along at a better pace.

Emily-Mae does a fantastic job in the title role. She has boundless energy and lights up the stage with her presence. Alex Parry does a fine job of characterising Mr Settegren, especially in the second act as the festival comes around and everything goes wrong around him. Hanora Kamen gives an outstanding performance in three roles. Playing the monkey Mr Nilsson, schoolteacher Ebba and PC Nyeberg.
Hanora Kamen as Mr Nilsson.
Photo by Manuel Harlan
The music for the production is composed by Stu Barker. The style as described by Stu in the programme notes is gypsy swing/gypsy ska for Pippi and for the villagers given a more folky feel. It's a lovely collection of songs and I've been humming the Pippi Longstocking number where Pippi sings about her name ever since I heard it. The actor-musician company really works bringing this score to life.

Katie Sykes design is a bit bare but as she describes this allows you to create the world in your mind. It's a clever concept that ultimately works well especially alongside Sally Ferguson's lighting design. Co-directors Jesse Jones and Helena Middleton use the Royal Theatre space brilliantly, with the action spilling of the stage a couple of times including a wonderful chase as the two police officers try to catch Pippi. Cressida Carré's movement is energetic and enhances the characters and production.

There's lots in the piece for young and old to enjoy and that's what makes this production a success. With lots of audience interaction, great comedy sequences (particularly with a gateau!) and great musical numbers. Pippi Longstocking and her adventures are well worth sharing in.

Rating: ★★★★ - brilliantly imaginative staging with a great score and a strong company.

Pippi Longstocking plays at Northampton's Royal Theatre until Tuesday 31st December. To book visit https://www.royalandderngate.co.uk/whats-on/pippi-longstocking/
The company of Pippi Longstocking. Photo by Manuel Harlan

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