Posts Tagged ‘Calum Callaghan’

A musical about an adventure playground in a suburb of Bristol in the 70’s doesn’t sound that promising, but its written by master playwright Jack Thorne, the man behind the Harry Potter plays, and directed by a directorial master, Jeremy Herrin. Stephen Warbeck’s score is so unconventional, I’d prefer to call it a musical play – think London Road, but not sung dialogue – and it’s anarchic and playful, with a great big heart. I loved it.

It’s based on Thorne’s dad’s real life experience in the Bristol adventure play movement. Rick, who we’d today call a teaching assistant, tries to recruit young teens to build an adventure playground in a troubled part of town. He works in the local secondary school, he visits parents and he tries to engage the kids. It takes a long while, but he makes it and six kids work with him creating something wild and fun. Even the head teacher approves (it’s on school land formerly earmarked for a maths block). It gets burnt down by vandals, so they rebuild it and take turns guarding it, until one of them is attacked and their world comes tumbling down.

The score is made up of short songs and snatches, played by just three musicians, but they do help tell the story. The set is, well, an adventure playground. The characterisations are terrific, with theee adults playing adults, including Calum Callaghan as gentle, empathetic Rick and six adults playing the kids, with feisty, cheeky Fiz at the centre, played superbly by Erin Doherty (who also impressed in a very different role in Wish List at the Royal Court recently). Fiz’s sister Debbie isn’t involved with the playground; she’s been following in her mother’s footsteps sleeping around, and is now pregnant by one of them, with two of the playground boys candidates! Seyi Omooba follows her auspicious professional debut in Ragtime with another very different but equally impressive performance as tomboy Tilly. Josef Davies is great as the skinhead who isn’t as hard as he looks, as is Enyi Okoronkwo as timid Talc with a crush on Fiz.

Sometimes the accents and kidspeak means words are missed, and there’s a lot of bad language, but that adds to the realism and authenticity. I thought it was original, edgy and captivating. Only one more week to catch it in Kingston.


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This was one of the first things I ever saw in the West End some 35 years ago, on a day trip from my then home town of Bristol. Mary J. O’Malley’s play (she hasn’t done much since) seemed a bit naughty at the time – a convent school for girls with bullying nuns, sexually repressed pupils and on-stage (but unseen) masturbation! I don’t recall a London revival since and now here it is down the road from its Willesden setting with local references including Kilburn, where the Tricycle Theatre is.

All of the pupils are called Mary, but we only meet three, which itself jarred, even though I fully appreciate fringe economics don’t stretch to a whole class. The three nuns are variations of a monster; nothing new there then. Father Mullarkey is a more benign presence, though still full of threats of what will happen if they don’t follow Jesus. Music teacher Mr Emmanuelli is rebellious but looks like a lech. One Mary has a posh boyfriend, Cuthbert, and another milkman Derek, both encouraging sexual experimentation.

Though it’s more nostalgic than shocking, there are some very funny moments in a well acted production – I particularly liked Molly Logan as Mary Mooney (the one without the boyfriend, but…) and Calum Callaghan’s exploitive mysogynistic Derek – staged by Kathy Burke. The design is a bit odd, with three gaudy receding proscenium arches, presumably meant to be churchy, and there are so many scene changes it loses pace, particularly in the first act.

It’s a solid three stars really – enjoyable enough, I didn’t regret going but I wonder if it’s worth reviving. That said, the rest of the audience seemed to be having more fun than me, though many of them looked as if they may be ex-pupils of such a school!

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