Tuesday, 21 August 2018

REVIEW: Gulliver's Travels - Bolton Octagon Theatre @ Queens Park, Bolton.

We travel with Lemuel Gulliver as he embarks on his travels, travelling around Queens Park in Bolton. Yes, this was an outdoor, promenade performance of Gulliver's Travels based on the novel by Jonathan Swift. Now, a new adaptation by Satinder Chohan and Mike Kenny, directed by Elizabeth Newman and Ben Occhipinti.

Gulliver (Michael Peavoy) is a adventurer, traveler, and storyteller. He longs to be a hero in his daughter’s eyes, Betty (Anne O'Riordan). Together they go on a journey to a land where he transforms into a giant, and everyone else around him is very small. It is the land of Lilliput, where war is occurring and the populace is divided. In the end, Gulliver and Betty learn some life enhancing morals.

It's fair to say the audience were never forgotten about, the performers always acknowledged and warmly guided them around the park to the different scenes. Every member of the cast crafted their performance style effectively for this family piece of theatre; their performance delivery was childish and playful. Peavoy and O'Riordan, as the two leads, kept up the enthusiasm and made sure the play always felt dynamic. All the actors could be heard and were full of energy, appropriate for an outdoor performance. However, in-between scenes, when the audience walked to the next place, there was no real continuation of the performance until the next scene. As a result, the experience felt a little broken up: a bit stop and start.

With each scene, the play gradually became more and more theatrical. The story began with a small boat-shaped bed and ended at the park's Amphitheatre. The Giant Gulliver was an impressive gigantic puppet, magically puppeteered by the actors and the backstage team (although was no real backstage for this performance). Queens Park quite literally turned into an enormous cartoon, colourful pop up book. The landscape of the park was utilised well for the performance, particularly at the start of act two. I'm not going to spoil what happened on here. The lighting design was made up of fairy lights, LED lights, and stage lights. It looked absolutely enchanting once the sun had gone down.

A few songs featured in the show, but the best song had to be the finale song, I believe it was called "Our Town". This song basically summarised the themes within the play and was an affectionate tribute for the townspeople of Bolton. It promoted: inclusivity, diversity, and equality. It communicated that no one should be made to feel like an outsider or feel like the "other". The end scene was directed in such a way that it made this theatrical moment, beautiful and moving.
The young company of children, acting the part of the small people, gave it 100%. One girl specifically was so loud and clear when delivering her lines, I was very impressed. A large team of people have put this show together, and they should all be congratulated. 

Verdict: A superb piece of outdoor, promenade theatre with excellent performances, a visually impressive production design, and a big heart.

Reviewer - Sam Lowe
on - 20/8/18

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