The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings











See links at top of our Main Page







Free Updates
Writing for Us
A CurtainUp London London Review
Princess Caraboo

"On the Eastern coast of the Caspian Sea
There's a people half Egyptian and half Tartary
They begin each meal thus assiduously
Could this help us solve the mystery? "
— Eddie Lyrics to "Salam"
Princess Caraboo
Cast in Princess Caraboo (Photo: Scott Rylander)
Set in the 1820s in Devon after the Napoleonic Wars Princess Caraboo is the story of a woman who masqueraded as a foreign princess speaking a language no-one could understand and claiming to be from the unknown island of Carabatta. It is a rags to riches story— a self styled Eliza Dolittle, an Anastasia story, a beauty whose exotic fascination duped the gullible Devonshire gentry. But it didn't finish there as the Princess Caraboo (Nikita Johal) was unmasked and fled to America where in Philadelphia she gave shows as her "royal" self.

Phil Willmott and Mark Collins' boutique musical takes some acceptable liberty with the true story and gives the princess an admirer and a romance with Eddie Redmayne lookalike Christian James playing Eddie Harvey, who painted her. She is also courted by the caddish Lord Marlborough (Oliver Stanley).

The musical is framed as a country house entertainment in the home of Sir Charles Worrall (Phil Sealey) and his kindly wife Lady Elizabeth Worrall (Sarah Lawn). The parts in Sir Charles' entertainment are taken by the family and the domestic servants.

The moral of Sir Charles' play is how a lie can become a great lie if people of importance give it credence. It is also a vindication as to why his wife, their only child having died some years earlier, shows such compassion to the princess waif with a sailor explaining her story. Osvaldo Agathius (Joseph O'Malley) says that he understands some of her language and that she was a princess who escaped from priates who kidnapped her. But later his inside knowledge is used against her.

The smallness of the space restricts some of the possible choreography but Thomas Michael Voss has some expressive scenes: the ball which ends with the princess teaching others some decidedly native dance. I liked also the whole cast dancing with their hands in a set piece of narrative.

Princess Caraboo was originally intended for the much larger Bristol Old Vic in a commissioned project that lost funding but Phil Willmott has adapted it to the Finborough space. The songs vary in style. The princess's stand out song, "My Own Person", closes the first act. This anthem to her independence is delivered with startling self awareness and honesty. The second opens with the jazzy "The Truth is Stranger than Fiction" as Sir Charles illustrates how we all lie to some extent. There is poignancy when Princess Caraboo describes the circumstances that found her in the workhouse pregnant and abandoned by her lover.

Nikita Jamal is a sweet faced princess who acts for most of the first half without speech but using her eyes and body, and she can belt out the songs. The believable cast bring many different roles to life in this enjoyable production which has the realistic thread of an interesting story from history about the whimsical nature of celebrity.
put SUBSCRIBE CURTAINUP EMAIL UPDATE in the subject line and your full name and email address in the body of the message -- if you can spare a minute, tell us how you came to Curtain Up and from what part of the country.
Princess Caraboo
Book and lyrics by Phil Willmott
Music by Phil Willmott and Mark Collins
Directed by Phil Willmott
With Nikita Johal, Christian James, Phil Sealey, Sarah Lawn, Oliver Stanley, Joseph O'Malley, Rebecca Ridout, Hilary Murnane, Ruben Kuppens, Althea Burey
Set designed by Toby Burbidge
Costume designed by Penn O'Gara
Lighting: Jack Weir
Sound: James Nicholson
Musical Director: Freddie Tapner
Choreographer: Thomas Michael Voss
Running time: Two hours 30 minutes with an interval
Box Office : 0844 847 1652
Booking to 22nd April 2016
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 1st April 2016 performance at Finborough, 118 Finborough Road London SW10 1ED (Tube: Earls Court)
Highlight one of the responses below and click "copy" or"CTRL+C"
  • I agree with the review of Princess Caraboo
  • I disagree with the review of Princess Caraboo
  • The review made me eager to see Princess Caraboo
Click on the address link E-mail:
Paste the highlighted text into the subject line (CTRL+ V):

Feel free to add detailed comments in the body of the email . . . also the names and emails of any friends to whom you'd like us to forward a copy of this review.

London Theatre Walks

Peter Ackroyd's  History of London: The Biography

London Sketchbook

tales from shakespeare
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
Click image to buy.
Our Review

©Copyright 2016, Elyse Sommer.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from