Thursday, 13 June 2019

AMATEUR THEATRE REVIEW: The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe - The Festival Theatre, Hyde. Greater Manchester.


In my experience amateur dramatic performances are often far from amateur, so I was looking forward to Hyde Little Theatre’s production of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe at Hyde Festival Theatre. The HLT have a relatively new youth theatre group which launched in December 2018, so this was a chance to not only see a well-loved childhood classic, but to see a number of the next generation take the stage.

The director’s notes invite you to come and see a “thrilling adaptation”, but I’m sad to say that what could have been a magical journey, for me, lacked a little polish and sparkle. This, I hasten to add, was nothing to do with the predominantly young cast, who did a wonderful job considering that they’d only taken 6 weeks to bring their production to fruition. I know that staging a performance is no mean feat, and it relies on the support of an army of volunteers, but with a little more creativity and imagination in the direction and production, the play could have been significantly more professional.

I’m putting it down to opening night nerves, but sections of the play, and quite a bit of the dialogue was rushed which made it hard to hear at times, but on the odd occasion when players stumbled on their lines, they held their nerve and pulled it back. And all credit to the youngsters for not being phased by a prolonged distraction when the middle row of the audience were making a rustling racket with their treats; honestly, the noise at one point was exceptional, I didn’t realise it was possible to make so much noise with a packet of Haribo!

Directional criticisms aside, I thought the 4 lead characters showed real promise and I’d be interested to watch them in future performances to see how they continue to develop their art. Evie Dewsnap was an enthusiastic Lucy, making good use of the stage and projecting her voice well, while Amy Hall and Jack Findlow made convincing work of playing the sensible and conscientious older siblings. But right from the first few lines of the play, Oliver Jones stood out for me. Although his portrayal of Edmund was somewhat playful and charming rather than the spiteful and mean Edmund of the books, Jones was very natural and had good stage presence.

Of the adult cast members, Andy Gibson (Alsan) and Richard Hall (Mr Tumnus) were the most memorable. Gibson’s Aslan was regal and poised, while Hall’s Tumnus was effervescent and likeable. If you’re at all concerned about taking small children to see the performance as they may be frightened by the White Witch, please don’t be. Jill Ratcliffe’s Witch is more pantomime villain than wicked, evil tyrant, and of course she gets her comeuppance in the end when they battle it out to save Narnia.

For some of the young cast, the production was their first for HLT, and for some it was their first steps in performance. While it’s still very early days for the Hyde Little Theatre youth group, they should be applauded for their efforts thus far. Action Together and Brother UK have supported the establishment of the group, but they are still keen to find new members and volunteers to assist in all areas from front of house, crew, props, fundraisers and tea makers, so if you’re interested in getting involved then you will be made very welcome. I sincerely hope that they find the support that they need to enable them to continue to perfect their art and see their performances go from strength to strength.

Reviewer - Becs McNeill
on - 12/6/19

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