Newbury Youth Theatre is up at the Edinburgh Fringe this week and has already played to two sell-out houses. Last week's preview earned plaudits in Newbury (review below), so we can't wait for the Edinburgh reaction. See tomorrow's N2 for producer Robin Strapp's first report from Auld Reekie.
NEWBURY is justly proud of its youth theatre, resident at the Corn Exchange, and their latest production The Glorious Invention of Emmanuel Stork, en route for the Edinburgh Fringe, shows the company at its very best. Without exception, this young team, confident and at ease on stage, combined dramatic ability and spot-on timing. A minimally-staged production, place and objects were evoked through magically inventive ensemble work and choreography. The text, along with
original songs and rhyming verse, was uniformly well spoken and intelligently delivered. As important, the underlying message could not have been more pertinent.
Invention, energy, fun and commitment were evident from the imaginative opening sequence. Dressed like the Whitby fishermen and women in Frank Meadow Sutcliffe’s celebrated 19th-century photographs, the cast gradually assembled on stage, their half-painted faces suggesting a touch of ‘Flower Power’ idealism. Barrels became improvised percussion, the shouts of a bustling fish market building to an accompanying chant.
The play follows the tribulations of 18-year-old Jack Coleman, who leaves his mist-encircled island home in search of the father who abandoned him, leaving him only a book with the instruction ‘Find Me’. We follow Jack as he puts to sea, is shipwrecked, and found on a beach by a ululating people who speak another tongue, but find a way to communicate. They’re led by a woman, so it’s bound to work out well. Another voyage, tiny lights suggesting the luminescent fish of the deep, an escape from the giant fish Schmoo, and a meeting with three giants who want ‘more, more, more’, then spew out their rubbish. Most scary of all, Jack finds himself in a call centre; a nightmare of targets, evaluations, and meaningless, ever-looping and never-resolved phone options. Give me combat with the Schmoo any day. Jack does, of course, find his lost father, ‘ES – Emmanuel Stork’, in his deep-sea laboratory, obsessed with his machine: a brilliantly evoked piece of ensemble work. Cue for a crash and re-boot.
Important questions are posed. Why are we too caught up in consumption and selfishness to look out for others or see the damage we’re doing to Mother Earth? Why do we allow so little room for altruism or giving? Why do we so often fear, rather than celebrate, the differences between us? Devised by the company, written by Tony Trigwell-Jones, directed by Amy and Tony Trigwell-Jones, and produced by Robin Strapp, with members of the company also undertaking all production roles, this is one of the best productions NYT has staged, with one of its best casts. They’re bound to wow the Fringe.
NYT pictures on web and in N2 by Paul Symes