The Prince's Play

Saturday, 20 April, 1996

I must say I did not enjoy this play. It is very demoralising, depressing and morbid . I was not sure who to feel sorry for the most, the comic played by Ken Stott who loved his daughter so much because she was pure and untouched , his only sanctuary from the real bad world. Or Becky, the comic's daughter played by Arlene Cockburn, for the sacrifice she makes for the one she loves. There was an awful lot of babble without anything meaningful being said.

The sets were exceptional though, but then they normally are in the Olivier. There was a lot of water on stage which helped to create the right atmosphere. In fact the best part of the evening was the interval when they were changing the set, I guess that says it all really!

(Darren Dalglish)

The quality of the production is undisputable. First class in every respect. But this play was long past its sell by date. The issue (the stealing of the Virginity of a poor jester's daughter) is very Victorian and ultimately anti feminist (the basic idea is that women can be damaged goods). In addition the play attacked Gypsies and the disabled. There was even an extraordinary line suggesting that the jester could not have children because he was a huntch back! Maybe the author would say he was putting forward these attitudes to challenge them, but he didn't seem to do a lot of challenging.

The rhyming couplets added nothing at all to the play, simply serving to make the defficiencies of the script more obvious as the lines strained to make the rhymes or we got whole stretches of meandering verse which had rhyme but no reason! Even if the plot had been interesting and relevant, the script needed an axe taking to it.

As for the production itself, though every component part was done brilliantly there seemed to be no connection between them. For example the basic scene (which looked like a room full of coat hangers with plastic bags on them) was very interesting but it had nothing to do with the Edwardian/ Victorian setting of the play. The Gypsy's hut was beautifully done but it looked more like something you would see in the Far East than on the Thames. It was almost as if the set designer had said 'this play is rubbish, I'm not interested in it, but I'm not going to let that stop me producing an interesting set design.

(Jonathan Brind)

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