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Geoff Aymer and Montel Douglas - Rapunzel Theatre Peckham Interview

This December, Theatre Peckham is back with another spectacular production that will captivate audiences of all ages. Get ready for a hair-raising adventure as we present a modern-day twist on the classic tale of Rapunzel. Join us as we weave and style this enchanting "hairy-tale" like never before. With a sprinkle of Barnet Magic, Rapunzel and her friends will take you on a journey of self-discovery and overcoming adversity. In a world where material wealth is coveted, this heartwarming story reminds us that true richness comes from within. 

Theatre Peckham welcomes a stellar line up for its now iconic musical-inspired, pantoesque Christmas show.  The principal cast starring in Rapunzel includes Kellah-M Spring (THE COLOR PURPLE, UK Tour), West-End musical theatre performer Scarlet Gabriel (MAMMA MIA! THE PARTY, O2WAITRESSSIXKINKY BOOTS), Edinburgh Festival’s Untapped 2023 award-winner Montel Douglas (ONE WAY OUT, New Diorama), Jade Leanne Benjamin who will be making her professional debut and Marcus Ayton (THE DRIFTER’S GIRL, Garrick Theatre, SHREK THE MUSICALUK Tour).
Rapunzel marks the fourth consecutive Christmas collaboration between playwright Geoff Aymer, Composer Jordan Xavier and Theatre Peckham's Artistic Director, Suzann McLean. Set in a vibrant Peckham hairdresser’s, this reimagined tale follows the success of last year's hit show, "Scroogelicious," a modern day take on Dickens’s classic “A Christmas Carol,” and the critically acclaimed "The Wonderful" inspired by Frank L. Baum's "The Wizard of Oz.

Ahead of the production that runs from Tuesday 5th until Sunday 24th December at Theatre Peckham, we caught up playwright
Geoff Aymer and star Montel Douglas about the show.

What attracted you to this project? 
Geoff: I wanted to do an update of a story/fairytale that hasn't been done very often. I wanted something that would stand out for both myself and Theatre Peckham. I also thought that as we would be doing a retelling of the Rapunzel tale, it might be nice to have a running theme of hair care fashion throughout the play as hair care and hair beauty is very much a big thing in today's society.

How do you approach inventing your own take on such a classic?
Geoff: Well, a lot of these tales date back centuries so it's about finding out what modern day scenarios could lead us to the central premise of these stories. In this case, my first priority was to find a relevant set-up as to why someone would want to kidnap baby Rapunzel in the first place, and take it from there. Also, bearing in mind attitudes to women, the patriarchy, feminism etc, both myself and Suzann weren't sure the idea of a classic prince charming rescuing a hapless maiden would quite work in a modern day scenario, so there's a different dynamic between a very determined and headstrong Rapunzel and the young man who finds her. He is complicit in her liberation but he doesn't necessarily rescue her in the classic sense. We still keep the love interest between the two though. Also, as stated earlier, because the central premise is the strength, almost supernatural nature of Rapunzel's hair, we reference hairstyles and hair care quite a bit.

What attracted you to this show and what part do you play?
Montel: This show is lively, pantomime style musical retelling of a beloved story and it is wonderful to see that the focus of the story is on the individuals that embody Peckham. This allows the audience to reconnect with one of their favourite fairytales through a brand-new, thrilling experience.
I play Dignity & D.I Hinkley  I can’t wait to get into the rehearsal room to start exploring these two fun and contrasting characters.

Montel Douglas

How rewarding does you find it performing to a family audience?
Montel: Performing for a family audience is a poignant reminder of why I'm drawn to the magic of the theatre. It's in those shared moments that families create lasting memories together. For some, it might be a child's initial experience into the world of theatre, and I'm driven to ensure their first experience is not only joyful but also enlightening. There's something profoundly fulfilling about being a part of a performance that contributes to the collection of cherished family memories, especially when it involves introducing the younger generation to the wonders of the stage.

What are the biggest challenges when you’re writing a family production?
Geoff: I suppose the big challenge as always, is to straddle two or three generations with the references and the humour. We are creating work that's going to be viewed and enjoyed by a lot of young people but those young people are going to be accompanied by adults so as a writer, I need to find ways of appealing to both sets of people. I still enjoy watching cartoons, Disney and Pixar films so I suppose I've never got rid of the big kid in me, and that helps as I think I have an innate sense of what generally appeals to young people. Obviously, the street and everyday language that young people use amongst each other changes all the time so I'm not always up-to-speed with that and have to ask my young colleagues to give me specifics.

What memories do you have from seeing Christmas shows?
Montel: This will be my first Christmas show experience, it will be sparkling and colourful, really bringing the whole story to life. With families and smiles everywhere. the Christmas spirit will take over the whole of Peckham.

Geoff Aymer
What keeps you inspired as a creative/performer?
Geoff: The need to tell stories. Especially from the point of view of sections of society that rarely get heard from.
Montel: A relentless passion fuels my desire to continually share stories with one another—a burning flame that ignites connections with fellow souls. It propels me not only to create stories but also to pass on the artistic baton to aspiring talents, emerging from backgrounds akin to mine. Within me, there remains the essence of that young boy, fuelled by boundless imagination and the simple joy of play.

What do you hope an audience takes away from seeing the show?
Geoff: A fresh perspective of an age-old tale. A message about determination and empowerment. A message about the consequences of going through life believing you're simply entitled to good fortune, rather than actually earning it. Plenty of laughs. Plenty of toe tapping moments to the tunes!

Rapunzel runs from 5 – 24 Dec at Theatre Peckham
For more about Rapunzel -

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