Sunday, November 06, 2016

School plays are a funny thing. Speaking from personal experience of years of having my dreams crushed when I got one meagre part after another. And I've had cause to see a few in recent times.

Done well, few things beat a "kids show". I still remember an excellent production of Rent at Nottingham Arts Theatre. The young ones all sobbed in each others' arms on stage at the curtain call (it was the last night), presumably as they'd loved doing it so much. Done badly, it's excruciating.

This week saw me grumpily attending a school production of Arabian Nights. Dominic Cooke's script is perfectly fashioned to give lots of kids lots of chances. There are (could be) inumerable numbers of kids standing about cloaked or in morph suits (and sometimes both). There are a few decent-sized parts (Shahrazad, for example) that feature throughout the story. And there are gorgeous cameos aplenty. Which could be doubled or tripled or whatever you fancy. False beards dealt neatly with the usual abundance of girls versus boys. I'm fascinated to see that the RSC managed it originally with 9 actors. I tried and failed to count them all up in the curtain call (admittedly, I failed because I was so glad it was over) but there must have been at least thirty of them. Maybe many more. 

I've been so scarred by a heavy-handed pantomime and a shreiking Crucible that I awaited this curtain up with bad-tempered dread. Unreasonably as it turned out. The set was smart and pretty. The costumes were abundant and lovely. The music was well done. Their lights were nuts - so very clever and expensive I was wracked with jealousy. And the acting was less of a mash-up of abilities than it can be as the less able children were managed into morph suits and the excellent ones had plenty opportunity to be excellent. 

Miriam was most excellent of all. Of course I'm biased. But there were some great comic turns. The (17 year old) mother's anguish at turning her daughter over to the beheading-happy king seemed as genuine but gently managed as you can get at 17. There was a lovely greedy wife. An excellent rolled up in a carpet boy. And lots of nice one liners.

Overall, it was much more comfortable fodder for the proudly pleased parents than the stern morality of last November's production. They were no doubt grateful and I was too.


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