Honk! is ‘a lovely alternative Christmas production’ at the Barn Theatre

PUBLISHED: 11:26 17 December 2018 | UPDATED: 11:45 17 December 2018

Chris White as Bullfrog and Elizabeth Russell as Ugly in Honk! at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City. Picture: John Davies

Chris White as Bullfrog and Elizabeth Russell as Ugly in Honk! at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City. Picture: John Davies

John Davies

Emily Perry reviews Christmas show Honk! at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City.

Gabriella Waspe, Caitlin Carr, Charlotte Nash and Laila Davies as Ducklings, Katherine Foxworthy as Ida and Mary Powell as Maureen in Honk! at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City. Picture: John DaviesGabriella Waspe, Caitlin Carr, Charlotte Nash and Laila Davies as Ducklings, Katherine Foxworthy as Ida and Mary Powell as Maureen in Honk! at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City. Picture: John Davies

Diversity hits the Barn Theatre for Christmas. Not the dance group, the topic.

The show of the festive period is Honk!, a modern adaptation of the story of The Ugly Duckling.

We all just want to fit in and be accepted in one way or another.

I’ve never seen this production before and was unsure what to expect.

Devi Smart as Queenie and Paul Russell as Cat in Honk! at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City. Picture: John DaviesDevi Smart as Queenie and Paul Russell as Cat in Honk! at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City. Picture: John Davies

Would I be greeted with full on big bird style costumes?

Would the tale reflect the actual story (in which case it wouldn’t take very long)?

Fortunately I was pleasantly surprised. Whilst the piece is indeed set in a barnyard full of ducks and other animals, there aren’t fully grown adults prancing across the stage quacking! The characterisation is more human with a hint of duck, which is perfect.

Similarly, the costumes are also human with touches of animal. This enables a human audience to easily identify, relate and warm to the characters and the action on stage.

Overall the cast is really strong and there are many standout performances and moments within the piece. Mother and father duck are well cast.

Mother duck sings a song about motherhood, which, as a mother of three, I could really relate to.

The cat is the purrfect equivalent of a pantomime villain; I feel Paul Russell really is the cat that got the cream, as he gets to taunt the duck, trick a goose and flirt with a female feline.

Elizabeth Russell and Daniel Angell perform the role of ugly duckling alternately. I saw Daniel play a most likeable duckling, with great stage presence.

The production is a musical and, once again, the band is led by Daniel Ephgrave, who does a superb job.

Musicals are not my go-to choice of theatre, however in Honk! the songs tell the story and bring great energy to the show.

Whilst the singing isn’t operatic standard, there is lots of fun within the songs and it is obvious the actors have worked hard and had fun with their characters in song. There are lovely numbers by mother duck, the naughty cat, a random frog and a bunch of eccentric geese.

I attended the first night of quite a long run of this production. Like a decent wine allowed to breathe, or a cheese ripening at room temperature, I think it will get better show by show.

I am so confident of this I’ve rebooked for myself and my three children on Christmas Eve, as I think my nine-year-old son and five-year-old twin girls are going to love it.

Honk! is a lovely alternative Christmas production and, whilst great for children, it is a funny and warm-hearted treat for grown ups too!

• There are performances of Honk! at the Barn Theatre until Monday, December 31, 2018.

Evening performances are at 7.30pm, with 2.30pm performances on December 22, 23, 24, 29, 30, and 31.

Tickets cost £15.

Visit www.barntheatre.co.uk for more details.

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