Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Review for Blue Remembered Hills at Derby Theatre June 2013

Dennis Potter's play 'Blue Remembered Hills' is a story about the past, the present and the future and follows the lives of a group of seven year old children experimenting through boisterous play to make some sense of the world around them.

The play is set during World War II and the children are discovered playing in the idyllic setting of the Forest of Dean on a beautiful summer day in 1943. They play, they taunt and fight and define relationships with each other by bickering and bullying to be top dog. There is also a great sense of fun and hilarity to be had as the children play their games and build complex friendships. Then in the midst of the play one tragic event changes the way they look at life forever.

Ruari Murchison and Colin Grenfell's stage design of an imposing dark grey hill and blank screen onto which the shadows of trees are cast works well with this version and the potent musical score (Olly Fox) serves well to add several layers of story telling enhancement and drama.

Director Pysche Stott believes that Dennis Potter's play is not only a piece that describes human capability for brutality, namely, the children’s relationships and the major world war going on in the adult world, but also about the human capability for joy, pleasure and wonder. And it is all these attributes that come alive on the stage with the seven children being played by adults – the remembered – aspect of the story.

All the cast work brilliantly as a team and the 'child-like' and childish personalities are superbly drawn. This, to quote Dennis Potter, is “childhood defined as the adult society writ large without all the conventions and the polite forms which overlay”. The work on the stage in Blue Remembered Hills at Derby Theatre has a fluidity and creative freedom and above all boldness and daring and makes for very fulfilling theatre. It is often extremely funny with darker undertones.

At the centre of the piece Christopher Price shines as the cruel and bullying Peter. James Bolt gets the sympathetic note as the stuttering, cowboy outfit wearing Raymond and David Nellist is terribly funny as the non- judgemental boy called Willie who just wants to be loyal and fair to all and is obsessed with Spitfires.

Tilly Gaunt portrays the sniffy Angela to perfection, at once vain and childishly superior, her deeper insecurities are subtly demonstrated though her interpretation. Joanna Holden as Audrey brings a real sense of tenacity to her character and is a wonderful comedian. Adrian Grove moves emotionally as the maltreated Donald who is desperately missing his father and Phil Cheadle portrays his character with a quiet authority and is particularly impressive in his scenes standing up to the bullying Peter. The whole piece has great energy.

The late Dennis Potter wrote 'Children are as intense in happiness as they are in misery. They live in the moment. That's the art of living that most adults have lost. Remembering how to live in the moment and why it might be important to do that as adults.'

This play is chock full of those important moments in our lives and an unforgettable evening at Derby Theatre.

Phil Lowe

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Derby Theatre Summer School. Want to get involved?

Derby Theatre Summer School

Monday 29 July – Friday 2 August

For one week over the summer holidays;
Derby Theatre will run a Summer School
of theatre for 8 – 16 year olds, where they
will produce a
Play in a Week, from Monday 29th July until Friday 2nd August.

During this exciting summer project, young
people will work in a real theatre setting, with
professional theatre practitioners, to create
a play in just one week.

For young people with an interest in theatre this a great opportunity to: work with professional theatre practitioners, share ideas and put them into practice and performance, gain an insight into producing a show within a professional theatre environment, be involved in the production, and be a part of the decision-making relating to how the play develops. The end product will be a live performance, shown to family and friends, on the final day. Caroline Barth (Head of Learning, Derby Theatre) said:“We are really excited about working with the talent and energy of young people of Derby and Derbyshire.  Our professional theatre practitioners will work with the group to make a performance to share for friends and family.  This is a great opportunity for everyone, from young people who haven’t been involved with us before to those who would like to develop their passion for theatre.”

There are a total of 50 places available (25 for 8-11 year olds and 25 for 12 – 16 year olds). Interest in the summer school is expected to be high; so early enquiry and booking is recommended. The whole week costs £65 per person.

To book a
Derby Theatre Summer School place: email Matt Clay at: m.clay@derby.ac.uk. For further enquiries, including information about limited subsidised places that may be available to certain young people, contact Caroline Barth, Head of Learning at: c.barth@derby.ac.uk

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Review of The Seagull. Derby Theatre.

Review of The Seagull.
11th June 2013

Derby Theatre

Anton Chekhov's 'The Seagull' is deemed to be one of the great modern classics and Headlong Theatre and The Nuffield Southampton co-production with Derby Theatre excel in bringing a bold freshness and modern approach to the work through John Donnelly's stunning up to date version directed by Blanche McIntyre. The original ideals of ground breaking theatre written by Chekhov were that the language be direct and have immediate meaning for the audience. Instead of stilted overly theatrical language Chekhov's dialogue and theatrical prose were seen to be startlingly fresh and understood by the audience as 'the language we speak ' or the actions and flow of story 'the way we live now'. These were challenging and exciting concepts that changed the future of theatrical art and how a story is presented on the stage.

Theatre and art are discussed at length through various forms and clever staging in this piece and quite intensely at some points, brilliantly turning a tirade into a sexual turn on for one character. A bold and amusing approach to interpretation. Boris and Nina fiercely argue the pros and cons of artistic success and the naïve Nina succumbs to the magnetism of the successful but unhappy Trigorin both balanced on a rocking sea saw of wild emotions.

The piece could be called a 'movable artistic feast' with the ultra modern symbolic set that isn't traditional in any sense only depicting a change in place through new positioning; a fresh off kilter imbalance of levels and the introduction of hastily drawn suitcases or indecipherable writings on the backdrop. The production was certainly atmospheric and the score electrifying at times and the quality lighting palate that sometimes illuminates the audience as well as the players created tensions as well as the scene. As a piece of theatrical live art it worked well and the acting was top class, on the whole, thrillingly mixing seasoned actors with raw new talent fresh from drama school.

Phil Lowe