The Queen of Colors
nytheatre.com review by Rohana Elias-Reyes
May 2, 2009
Much like a picture book, The Queen of Colors unfolds through simple images and gentle interaction between the Queen and her Court Painter and Court Musician. It isn't surprising, since the show is inspired by a German children's book of the same name, but Erfreuliches Theater Erfurt's production gets it exactly right.
The story is disarmingly simple: the little Queen gets up, goes outside to play, has a few adventures, and then turns in for the night after a busy day—but the way the story unfolds is enchanting. The little Queen is a shadow puppet, expertly manipulated and acted by Paul Olbrich. She is in turn bossy, silly, and very lovable, like many a little princess we all know. Eva Noell as the Court Painter interacts with the children in the audience, serves as a surrogate parent for the Queen, and paints and manipulates the scenes in which the Queen goes through her day. These are simultaneously projected onto the screen on which the Queen appears. Through this real time animation dishes appear for the Queen's breakfast, water for her shower, and anything else the Queen wants. And what does she want? Colors, of course!
At the Queen's command the Court Painter provides a red ball, a red flower, and a red horse. Soon the Queen wants everything red. She commands the Court Musician to play some riding music, and the energy, the music, and the painting reach a frantic pace. This leads to a fall for the Queen and...a little blue bruise. With the introduction of blue, Noell animates clouds and the ocean; the little Queen goes for a boat ride and a swim. She gets cold, but no problem, the Court Painter provides her with a yellow sun and a trip across the desert, for which she commands desert music, of course. The Queen gets herself in trouble when she asks for too many colors at the same time, but it all works out in the end. Thankfully, there is never a "here's the lesson for the day" moment, but with each change the children see and hear how color and music affect mood, scene, and pace.
The production is perfect for young children (say, four- to seven-year-olds): in part because it is simple and gentle, but never patronizing; in part because of the joyousness of Noell's images and Oleksandr Voyanov's music; and in part because every character, object, and situation is something to which even the youngest can relate. The technical skill of the performers and the abundant visual surprises and jokes ensure The Queen of Colors is engaging for parents as well.