22nd June 2005 (uncut)
Brockley Jack Theatre Fringe
Darren Rapier's new play follows a family as they escape from post- partition India to pre-swing London. In setting the play in both countries, divided by 14 years, Rapier studies how Vincent and Conny Richardson are perennial foreigners in their own land. As members of the Anglo-Indian middle class, they no longer hold any sway in the new Indian society, and as immigrants to an England whose quota of immigrants is `full', they feel unwelcome and disillusioned.
It is a disillusionment fed by an antiquated vision that their community had nurtured. The play juxtaposes Conny's dreams of an England of sandwiches at the Savoy with the reality of scrubbers on scrubland. Vincent unwittingly bonds with a prostitute called Rose in his local north London park while practicing his 'kite fighting', a noble sport of kings in his homeland. His meditative practice becomes a means of escaping the everyday mundanity, and of connecting with a Buddhist philosophy that underpins the play ('we tug at strings, but have no control of the wind'). The threads of the story are cleverly entwined by this image, even if the metaphors can become laboured (people are always wanting to `cut the thread' of their various ties, whether of blood, marriage or nation).
The simple and elegant set also reflects this motif, with sepia prints hanging from diagonal strings. The stagecraft is equally economical and effective, but the direction can veer toward the static at times. This stasis suits the dignified performances, however, and contrasts vividly with Rapier's political and poetic message, namely that immigration has always been an issue in Britain; moreover, for immigrants and Buddhists alike, nothing is ever still.
The Little Mermaid
Darren Rapier’s adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s old favourite does not take liberties for the sake of modernisation or topicality.
Aimed fairly and squarely at 3-8-year-olds, the songs either move the story along or allow for a little audience participation. When good eventually triumphs over evil, it is with the help of the audience chattering like dolphins.
Scenery and lighting cleverly evoke both ocean floor or storm-tossed ship, particularly considering the limited space of this marvellous 100-seater.
Drew McKenzie clearly relishes his role as Neptune, especially when in disguise as a Sea Captain who is rather too fond of his hip flask. Brigid Lohrey also enjoys her role as the evil sea witch Mindel, with tentacles flailing and a nice line in asides to the stage crew.
Neptune and Mindel’s costumes, designed by Bryan Philip Davies, are spectacular.
Jonathan Chambers produces the right blend of good looks and buffoonery for Prince Roldan to engage the audience’s sympathy and Suzie Ashworth as Nerine, the Little Mermaid, dazzles.
Young girls from the Doris Holford Stage School perform various roles including ship mates, courtiers and sea weeds - Mindel’s side-kicks - with a panache that belies their years.
Hans Christian Andersen, adapted by Darren Rapier
In the Wings Productions and Sutton Theatres
Suzie Ashworth, Brigid Lohrey, Jonathan Chambers, Drew McKenzie
Production information can change over the run of the show.
Charles Cryer Studio Carshalton
The Snow Queen
Global warming has in no way affected Christmas in Carshalton where, despite a very warm show, snow is crisp even for Hans Christian Andersen’s frosty story of a villainous Snow Queen, who whisks a little boy away to her ice palace to freeze his heart against the world.
But good prevails over evil as Gerda, played by ten-year-old Hannah Machin, gives chase to find her missing friend, Kay. She performs with clarity and expression and picks up her cues quickly in a remarkable and very promising debut.
The villainous Queen is frozen right down to her blue lips in a terrifying portrayal by Ishbel Nicol. Gareth Watkins doubles as Prince, a robber and the largest penguin you ever saw. Drew McKenzie switches around as a kindly uncle, a crow and a robber. Susie Ashworth also shines in many roles from Kay’s mother to a crow and yet another robber. Ella Nokes and Charlotte Trefusis alternate with Machin as Gerda and the missing boy Kay is played by Aaron Wetheridge, Keyleigh Parker and Eddie Palmer.
Colourful scenery on wheels is moved around briskly and with well made character costumes, the combination makes for a very good presentation.