Monthly Archives: October 2013

Kindertransport – Belgrade Theatre, Coventry

Reviewed by Helen and Garry McWilliams

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There were three reasons for us to have high expectations of this production of ‘Kindertransport’ by Diane Samuels. Starring Paula Wilcox and Janet Dibley and produced by ‘Hall and Childs’ who are building a fine reputation for themselves with a successful tour of Ayckbourn’s ‘Haunting Julia’ under their belt, we anticipated that this would not disappoint.

Rendering the entire audience silent as together, we followed the trials and tribulations of mothers and daughters in opposing time periods, this production was nothing short of breath-taking. The solitary set was designed to follow the characters’ journeys with minimal fuss and the multiple purpose of some of the props was an innovative idea. The sound effects were a stunning addition to the piece and added an atmospheric dimension.

The story essentially revolves around the mother/daughter relationship as demonstrated by a Jewish mother and daughter in Germany in the 1930s where children are about to be evacuated to England. Simultaneously, in the 1980s a daughter is leaving home to live with her friends – but is it too soon? Her mother doesn’t seem to think so but implores her to make a decision and stick to it! The two stories are linked, in the most complex and heart-wrenching way. Paula Wilcox is outstanding as Lil, moving seemlessly between time periods as the Grandmother in the 1980s and ‘mother’ in the 1930s, she also provides some light comedy moments. Janet Dibley plays Evelyn, who tries to deal with her past by ignoring it, yet it becomes clear that the past has made her the person she is today and there are issues that need to be faced. Dibley’s performance is stunning, ‘Evelyn’ claims that as she gets older she loses more of herself, and this statement is reflected in every emotion she portrays.

There are superb contributions from Emma Deegan as Jewish Mother, Helga, also Paul Lancaster who primarily takes the role of the Ratcatcher, but also played various other male roles. Making her theatre debut is Rosie Holden as Faith (Evelyn’s daughter) and we feel sure this won’t be the last time we’ll see her treading the boards. However, arguably the most pivotal role is that of Eva, and Gabrielle Dempsey has been perfectly cast. Dempsey’s German accent never waivered (until it was necessary) and she convincingly portrayed every age of the character.

Andrew Hall has directed an amazingly talented cast in a spectacularly touching play which we feel is a must-see for audiences of most age ranges. The short run in Coventry has come to an end, however please access http://www.kindertransport.co.uk for all dates and venues.

Butterfly Lion – Malvern Theatres

Reviewed by Helen and Garry McWilliams

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Following great success at Leicester Curve Theatre and Derby Theatre, Michael Morpurgo’s ‘Butterfly Lion’ is currently on tour and entertaining young and old alike. It’s a cleverly written story which on the surface would appear to be a children’s tale, yet has many layers to analyse.

With use of puppetry a much publicised element of the show, we expected to see a production akin to ‘War Horse*’, and we weren’t far wrong. With a skilled cast of actors among whom, is the ever popular Gwen Taylor, this show has something for everyone and works on many levels. Well staged with puppets taking on almost a life of their own, from the lion (at various stages of his life) to the butterflies!

The story opens with the introduction of young Michael who makes good his escape from boarding school and finds himself inside the private property of a lady called Millie. Here is where the story of the Butterfly Lion starts (who can be seen in the distance upon the hillside). Michael learns about Bertie who was born in South Africa and is fascinated by the animals who visit the water hole which he can see from the gates of his house. At the centre of Bertie’s attention is a Lioness with her cub, however the disappearance of so many cattle from Bertie’s family’s land causes the lion cub to become orphaned. In a story not too dissimilar to that of ‘War Horse’, Bertie develops a close friendship and bond with the lion cub, sadly parting company with him a few years before the First World War breaks out. Although the story is pitched for 7 years old upwards, it’s far from a fairy story as there are some harsh realities, but it still works well as a children’s story.

Adam Buchanan takes on the dual role of Michael/Bertie and he has an amazing capacity for switching between young and old, it was easy to follow which character he was playing as he moved seamlessly between the two. Gwen Taylor is a triumph as Millie, she’s adept at showing playing the caring matriarch character, clear and engaging as a narrator with superb diction, but also plays Millie as a little girl endearingly. Lloyd Notice who operates the lion also puts in a stunning performance, indeed there is not one weak link in this cast, though – everyone should be commended on a moving piece of theatre.

Why, you may be wondering is this lion a butterfly lion? That would be telling! However, the tour is continuing to Nottingham, Glasgow, Richmond and Brighton – so we recommend that you go and find out.

*For our readers who may not be aware, ‘War Horse’ was also written by Michael Morpurgo.