Tag Archives: Katy Owen

Double Double

WISE CHILDREN

Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, Wednesday 3rd April, 2019

 

On the occasion of their 75th birthday, twin sisters Nora and Dora Chance receive an invitation to the 100th birthday party of their strange and estranged father, Melchior Hazard, a feted actor of the old school.  As the twins get ready, they recount the story of their family.  It’s a tale of the theatre, of absentee fathers, of choosing a family…

With this adaptation of the Angela Carter novel, Emma Rice makes a welcome return to form and to the stage, appearing as Nora Chance alongside Gareth Snook’s Dora. The pair are well-suited, and so are the other pairs of actors who portray the twins at earlier points in their lives and dancing careers.  Members of the beret-sporting chorus step forward and assume the roles of Melchior and his twin Peregrine, and the action flows fluidly through the stages of the story.  Fluidity is key, here; gender fluidity and colour fluidity in the casting, which adds to the theatricality of the telling and detracts nothing from the spellbinding charm of the enterprise.

Paul Hunter (the older Melchior) is a hoot as end-of-the-pier comic, Gorgeous George; the show has a definite whiff of seaside postcard and music hall vulgarity – which makes it all the more glorious.  Long-time Rice collaborator, Mike Shepherd (the older Peregrine) also features as a deadpan stagehand, but it’s Katy Owen’s Grandma Chance, waddling about in a body suit who garners the most laughs from the more outre material.

Melissa James and Omari Douglas portray the twins at the height of their careers, getting to know the ways of the world and men.  The dancing is lively and also elegant throughout, thanks to Etta Murfitt’s choreography, and the music, supplied by an onstage trio (augmented by cast members) is sublime, with Ian Ross’s original compositions nestled side-by-side with classics like “Let’s Face The Music and Dance” and “Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby”.

Mirabelle Gremaud and Bettrys Jones bring juvenile energy to the twins as young girls, and Patrycja Kujawska is a dignified presence as the Lady Atalanta.  I also enjoy Sam Archer’s Young Peregrine and Ankur Bahl’s posturing Young Melchior.

The whole production has Emma Rice stamped all over it.  This is a Kneehigh show in everything but name.  The fun, the storytelling, the music, the puppetry, the romanticism, the wisdom… It’s all here to be savoured.

A magical, captivating piece that tickles the ribs and touches the heart.  It’s a wise critic who knows something special when he sees it.

ST102058

Doublet-trouble: Melissa James and Omari Douglas. (Photo: Steve Tanner)

 

 

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The Honeymoon is over…

REBECCA

The REP, Birmingham, Friday 1st May, 2015

 

Expectations are more than knee high for a Kneehigh production. You expect to see certain things delivered in a certain style and once again director Emma Rice does not disappoint. The trappings of a Kneehigh show are all in evidence: the onstage musicians underscoring the action, beautiful puppetry (the dog is especially endearing) and a certain brio to the performance style.

Daphne du Maurier’s dark tale of jealousy becomes in this treatment a fairy story. A young girl moves into a castle (well, Manderley!) and discovers, Bluebeard-like, that her new husband has secrets… It’s not that the house is haunted but the inhabitants are, unable to shake off the memory of De Winter’s first wife, the eponymous and unseen Rebecca.

Imogen Sage is suitably appealing as the second Mrs De Winter, blundering from faux pas to faux pas and giving rise to tension. Tristan Sturrock cuts a dash as widower/newlywed Maxim De Winter, a man whose inner torments cause anguish and outbursts of temper. He is out-debonaired though by Ewan Wardrop as Jack Favell, his first wife’s lover. Wardrop sweeps across the stage, Astaire-like and cocky. You can see why Rebecca strayed! Emily Raymond is dour and yet impassioned as housekeeper Mrs Danvers, devoted to her former boss, and particularly enjoyable are Lizzie Winter and Andy Williams (not that Andy Williams) as hedonistic in-laws, Beatrice and Giles. Katy Owen almost steals the show as young servant Robert, whose dancing has to be seen to be believed.

For me, this production is all about the staging. Leslie Travers’s set combines elements of the rugged Cornish coast with the interior of Manderley and, depending on how scenes are lit (designed by Tim Lutkin) either the house or the Poldarkian  landscape dominates. A boat, lowered from the flies, becomes part of the floor in the house – it is as though they are dancing on the drowned Rebecca’s grave. Flashes of lightning remind us of the duality of mankind; beneath the veneer of civilisation run the powerful forces of nature. This is certainly true of Maxim De Winter – and the rest of us too!

It’s an enchanting and inventively theatrical production that should satisfy Kneehigh fans and Du Maurier aficionados alike.

rebecca