|DATE||18th December 2019|
|SOCIETY||Chelmsford Theatre Workshop|
|VENUE||The Old Court Theatre, Chelmsford|
|TYPE OF PRODUCTION||Play|
|DIRECTORS||Rachel Curren and Stephanie Yorke-Edwards|
This play was a very bold choice for Rachel Curren and Stephanie Yorke-Edwards to make for their directing debut, and they should be applauded for the preparation and enthusiasm that went into it. On the surface it may seem a simple enough idea to have adults acting as children performing a nativity play, but of course it is much more complex in practice. The directors had to ensure that the adult actors did not break character as children, that they could furthermore do justice to their portrayal of their own parents, and also bring to life the underlying backstories of each family, so subtly woven into the script.
The individual actors had worked on a specific characteristic that would define their particular child. At times these were a little overstated, risking a distraction from the story they were telling, so perhaps a softer approach might have helped in places, but they did well to tackle such a challenging task with great gusto and dedication. The surprise for the audience was the transition into their parents later in the play, which gave the actors the opportunity to develop their characters into what was essentially their adult selves. It was moving to hear about the shortcomings in each child’s home life told from the perspective of the child, and then to see it played out in the behaviour of the respective adults. Although the pace could have been tighter in places during some of the lengthier scenes, the scene-changes were slick, and the play flowed well. Appropriate costumes were used to demonstrate the different background of each child, enhanced by the wardrobe choice for the corresponding adult.
The actors should be praised for their concentration, and the support that they gave each other in what was a true ensemble piece. Each one of them contributed to a team effort, and each one was always present in the moment during their performance.
The addition of the songs added to the challenge. The timing between the piano-playing and each child’s singing was so spot-on, that it was hard to believe that the piano had been pre-recorded. This had to have been very well-rehearsed, and their hard work was evident throughout. The one note to make about this was the volume of the piano accompaniment that occasionally overpowered the quieter of the singers. Despite this, each actor managed to successfully deliver a sometimes very difficult rendition of the re-written carols, with amusing and complex lyrics, again demonstrating how engaged each member of the team was.
The overriding impression was that of a production that all involved were enjoying, delivered with energy and enthusiasm. Well done to everyone on a splendid collaborative achievement, and thank you for inviting me.