Audience members expecting a buoyant tale of happy ever after will have left Chapter with quite a surprise this evening after Theatr Iolo and Invisible Ink’s production of The Magic Toyshop. Based on the gothic fairy-tale penned by Angela Carter, famed for her feminist and magical realism, the story explores the eerie world of forbidden desires and dark family secrets.
Following the death of her family, 15 year old Melanie is transported away from the classic, middle-class comforts of her safe, idealistic life into a parallel world. Put in the care of her twisted Uncle Philip, her world turns a darker shade of black as the demented threads of her new family home quickly start to unravel, and an unsettling world of living dolls, abuse and incest rise to the surface.
The stage was used with strong effect, with elements of the set being transformed with ease, intensified by an interesting and intense use of lighting. The five person cast was overall an effective team, although certain members of the cast quite easily outshone others. Comedy was interspersed throughout which helped to reinforce the dark, Gothic undertones of the play; unfortunately, I did feel like this needed to be emphasised even further. For such a disturbing (strike – incredibly disturbing. Certain parts left me feeling quite uncomfortable) story line, I wasn’t overwhelmed by the darkness of the production. Perhaps that was not the intention; and I can understand the way it was presented would appeal to a wider audience. For my personal taste, if something is dark I want it to be dark!
Ignoring the (at times) disjointed and unexplained narrative, The Magic Toyshop did entertain. It was not quite what I expected, but it did deliver a thought-provoking piece of theatre. Whatever your response, it will totally engross, baffle, shock and disturb; for that alone, this one is worth a watch.
The Magic Toyshop plays at Chapter Arts Centre until Saturday 17th May. For tickets and information, visit the Chapter website.