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REVIEW: Song to the Siren: Tales of the Sea – 1066 Youth Theatre

29 Aug – 1 Sep 2018

The Stables 1066 Youth Theatre has a reputation for ensemble creativity, energy and style and this year’s production lived up to the well-established tradition.   Whether it was – Odysseus (Harper Jackson) escaping the charms of Circe (Emily Copper); the wives and sweethearts of the crew of the Mary Stamford lifeboat recounting their tragic loss;  Sedna (Rosie Richardson) the Inuit Goddess of the Sea pulling us to the depths of the oceans; Ivan the Ninny (April Stansfield) making us laugh with her story of the value of salt; Cherry (Anna Martin) taking us back to the mining caves of the Cornish coast; the Captains of ghost ships telling of their inexplicable ends or Anne Bonny (Michaela Flynn) enacting the rise, fall and escape of a female pirate – the company were all completely in the moment, word perfect and in control of their performances.

A single split-level set was used for each enactment with changes in lights, sound, costume, simple props and production style, enough to create the individual setting and atmosphere of each story.  The cast’s own musical talents (Alice Child, Toby Lawson-McBrien, Bryony Gordon, Tiger-Lily Lee-Ryan and Eleanor Grosvenor-Sear) added variety to the rich soundscape, with flute and clarinet particularly memorable.  Simple black clothing was mixed with stand-out bright costumes that provided colour and drew our eyes to the central protagonists.

To crown it all, an unprogrammed piece ended the evening, bringing us completely up to date.  The cast formed in lines to narrate a powerful and moving account of modern refugees fleeing across the seas from war, risking all, losing lives, and finding new ones.  It was an apposite reminder that the oceans continue to provide a source of hope as well as destruction and grief.

Directors Niall Whitehead and Barbara Ward brought together a mix of stories, apocryphal and true, ancient and modern, that made us laugh and cry, engaged us throughout, and all with the pulse of the oceans coursing through them.   Hard to ask for much more in an evening’s entertainment.  And all of it achieved in two weeks.  The challenge of productions such as these is to include everyone, and make everyone’s contribution count without diluting the theatrical integrity of the drama.  Well done 1066 Youth Theatre; you pulled it off.  It was marvellous to see, and a huge credit to everyone involved.

Philip Blurton

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