Monday, July 15, 2024

Drama Fest: Super cyber-tale brings praise from judges

Reviews by Frank T Harvey

Super Troupers presented “Ugly Duckling” a new play written and directed by Sue McPherson which used the Hans Christian Anderson story to present a tale of jealousy, deceit and bullying against the backdrop of a dance competition.

Central to the theme was the role of cyber bullying – very topical, and the company used projections of the computer screen as the actors talked. This was an impressive technical feat for young actors to co-ordinate and worked well.

The company used costume changes well with particular reference to the uniforms worn by the street dancers and the ballet dancers. The Dance scenes were well performed and the adjudicator pointed out that the balance between the acting and dancing in the piece was very good. The spooky nightmare scene got particular praise as did the bedroom settings and Hannah’s leggings! Using such a wide age range in the production did the director credit. The lead roles of Shelley (Played by Bernice Rayner) and Tammy (Tanya MacPherson) were very strong with good characterisations and clear audible diction by both. Sam (Steven MacPherson) and Martyn (John Boswell) played the contrasting nasty and nice brothers with gusto.

Annabella (Anaya Sihra ) got a special mention for having a big voice in a small body which gave good dramatic effect. There was a lot in this play for 30 minutes worth and the company were congratulated on their pace and energy. The adjudicator was impressed with all the cast and the moral – “lay off the cyber bullying” came through very strongly. Excellent to see new work being performed at the Thameside.

Thurrock Youth Theatre presented “Too Much Punch For Judy” by Mark Wheeler

Mark Wheeler plays all have a punchy social message and this is one of his most successful with over 5000 productions worldwide. Based on true events it tells the true story of two Essex birds Judy and Jo who were in a drunken driving car crash in Dunmow in Essex in 1983. Jo died a violent death in the crash. The play is a drama documentary presented in Brechtian form – most of the actors face the audience to tell the story and the lines are taken from the transcripts of the actual people. The play has a very serious gulp factor because the parents of Judy and Jo have made the actual pictures of the crash available which really brings the message home.

This is a normal family, in a normal car, in a normal street – dealing with dreadful (and avoidable) tragedy. The play relies on high energy performances to give a feeling of excitement and fun that these young people enjoy and contrasting sharply with the post crash horror. The play is simple, but sophisticated in use of characterisations, projections and music.

Adjudicator Paul Fowler praised the two lead performances of Judy (Judith Cordingley) and Jo (Poppy West) for big impact in the opening scenes as a believable sister act (and very convincing drunks). The teamwork of the two Essex lads Bob (Benjamin Ellis Foster) and Nob (James Burgess) was very strong, while the two policemen (Jamie Tidbury and Jesse Robertson) handled difficult scenes well.

Jesse got the biggest laugh of the night with the most succinct portrayal of a marriage breakup that the adjudicator had ever seen. The accident was portrayed well and some technical effects were well done. Mum Vi (Chloe Wiles) was praised for her portrayal of Mum Vi – lots of nervous energy and parental angst.

It’s hard for a young person to portray older people convincingly but both Chloe and Shane Prime who played witness Duncan were very believable. The adjudicator said that this was a talented company who had brought a lump to the throat and a tear to the eye.

The company needed to pay attention to detail – the policemen costumes were not up to scratch and some of the actors were not confident with their lines which affected the pace and flow of the piece, but with a bit more attention to detail the show could go to the next level.




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