Young People Reviews 2005

BEXTON PRIMARY - The Age of Miracles

Bexton Primary at the Paxton Suite

The age of junior choral miracles is not past!

This musical enquiry into miracles, are they past, or are they still around us, is undertaken with great vigour and enthusiasm by the choir of Bexton Primary School, Knutsford, under their musical director Ruti Worrall. They sang rousingly of Biblical miracles, Noah (a version new to me), and Joshua (the classic 'Joshua fit the Battle', and what might be miracles, closer to home.

Some 60 - plus children, aged between 9 and 11, filed quite demurely onto the stage, sat and waited with exemplary discipline, and then flung themselves into their music-making. There were 'just' the children's voices and the piano, but nothing more was necessary. These children can do the rhythm and the diction, the tunes, the storytelling, the solo voices taking up from each other without the slightest hesitation - I lost track of how many soloists there were - and all with a verve and commitment that many conductors pray for. The quality of the solo singing was startling.

The audience was really engaged throughout. It helped that the children evidently had their own personal fan clubs along, but where the performers are so clearly enjoying doing work of such quality, that's just an added bonus for everyone present.

It is very likely that these children are catching a love of music to last through their lives, while happening also to learn concentration and teamwork and participation at the same time. They've also learnt stamina, doing six half-hour performances through a hot Sunday, which would be a challenge to most adults.

This review can't persuade you into their audience this year, but if they come again, go and hear them. You won't be disappointed, and you might be inspired.


FREEFALL STORYTELLING - Around the World in 80 Stories or Less

Orchestra Pit, Sunday 10 July 2pm

On a sweltering afternoon the Orchestra Pit was a haven of cool as FREEFALL Storytelling, (aka seasoned Fringe Performers Simon Atherton and Adrian Tissier) served up a feast for all the senses with their new show.

Children and adults alike were treated to a lively and fun packed tour of the world taking in stories of goblins, monsters, hidden treasure and lettuce!!!

FREEFALL blur the lines between storytelling and theatre and audience participation is a must, including scoffing some very nice pink cakes and helping to unearth some delicious gold coins.

A real family treat, this show can be seen again on Sunday 17 and Saturday 23 at 2pm. Don't miss it.


KIPPER TIE - Hansel and Gretel

Pauper's Pit Theatre - Old Hall Hotel - 21st July at 10.30am

Further performances: Friday 22nd and Saturday 23rd July at 10.30am

What a wonderful surprise this was! I heard one audience member say that this was the best thing they had seen at the Fringe this year - and I can see why. Kipper T.I.E.

(Theatre in Education) have just completed a 5 month National Tour and the experience, professionalism and polished performances you might expect from such a background were very evident in this lively, funny and thoroughly enjoyable show.

The audience was small, which I suppose was not surprising as any local children would be at school. I hope the numbers increase because they certainly deserve full houses and the audience participation will be much more fun! The company were very flexible however and did not push the participation elements. The play is a new take on the story of Hansel and Gretel with many other fairy story characters thrown in. There is wonderful singing and slick movement and some fairly sophisticated humour to keep adults and older children very happy. At no point is the audience patronised and the assumption is made that we will "get" the jokes, which I think is the secret of the show's success. The play is written by Jim Fowler and Bernie C. Byrnes and it is a scintillating script with something for everyone to enjoy. Bernie also plays the sensible Gretel who holds the whole show together. All sorts of subjects are touched upon: sibling rivalry, step parents, the cult of the celebrity, and the finale gives a satisfying round up with a comfortable but pleasingly unsugary happy ending.

No set, but fabulous costumes and some lightning quick changes (not an easy task in the Pauper's Pit). Highlights for me included Sophie Hobson's "Goldilocks Tango" and the "Red Riding Hood" blues. I also very much enjoyed her caffeine-addicted Sleeping Beauty character with wedding worries. She is a wonderful, energetic performer with great stage presence and a lovely voice. Bernie C Byrnes was the dependable Gretel, the lynch pin who kept the story going. She was confident and funny and always very much in control. I had the feeling there was a lot more this performer could do, but in this show the opportunities to dazzle were given to Sophie and to Iain Dootson who played Hansel.

Iain has great comic timing and a good singing voice and terrific versatility as a performer, appearing as Red Riding Hood's unrepentant wolf ( " Bad is my middle name") and managing to appear simultaneously as the Old Woman who Lived in a Shoe and a wise two year old in a basket ( go and see the show!). He was a delight to watch and had the audience is stitches. Sometimes, watching adults playing children can make you cringe but this company seems to manage it very well.

All in all a cracking good show which I would recommend to the child in everyone!

Helen Grady

STONE AND WATER - The Enchanted Woodland


July 19: Becoming Beasts, Sherbrook Woods, 4-6pm

If you go down to the woods today, or indeed on several other occasions right up until Tuesday 26th, you could find yourself caught up in a magical celebration of Buxton's wildlife and trees.

Some 13 children, whose parents presumably felt they were not beastly enough already, took up the invitation to 'become a beast' in Sherbrook Woods near Buxton Riding School yesterday afternoon. Under very soluble-looking skies, my ten-year-old daughter Annie and friends found their own spaces on a mat and started to consider just what woodland creature they would like to be. With the delicious lack of constraint of childhood, they come up with woodpecker, elephant, puppy and one-eyed monster, amongst other ideas.

It amazes me how Stone and Water (often 'Toad', alias, Gordon MacLellan, but on this occasion former water goddess, Paula, and colleague, Alice) can hold the interest of children of all ages simply by showing them what remarkable masks they can make and then offering them the glittery and exciting materials they need to create them. Thus boys with sticks were drawn into the workshop, a five-year-old was tamed and one worldly-wise ten-year-old was even persuaded to put aside Harry Potter!

In these days of television and computers, it is heartening how boys and girls can still be enthralled by crafts and nature. Best of all, this is all leading up to something - next Tuesday 26th's Enchanted Woodland public performance involving artists, musicians and the children themselves with all their creations, meeting at Poole's Cavern (6pm for performers, 6.30pm for audience). There are plenty more woodland workshops before then and all for free. Why not pick up one of Stone and Water's leaflets or contact Poole's Cavern (01298 26978) or Gordon MacLellan (01298 77964) to find out more?

Stephanie Billen



Poole's Cavern, July 12-14 and 18-20, 6.30pm

Martin Beard's well-respected REC Drama School celebrates its tenth anniversary in style with this vibrant production of The Wizard of Oz.

Performed in the grassy area by Poole's Cavern, this ambitious open-air musical brings together all three drama groups for the first time plus a youthful orchestra capably conducted by 16-year-old Trish Brown.

The advantages of a large cast are immediately apparent. When the Kansas tornado strikes, countless black figures tear through the audience brilliantly recreating the terrifying effects of the storm. When Dorothy lands in the magical land of the Munchkins she is overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of cheery, polka-dotted residents.

Having a large choice of actors must have been very useful; certainly everybody seems extremely well-cast and the discrepancies of height between, say, Dorothy and her tiny dog, Toto (sweetly played by Elzabeth Armett), all add to the fun. As Dorothy, Anna Grady acts with a conviction born of experience. As well as having a lovely, if occasionally too quiet singing voice, she really can express emotion - I was alarmed to find myself close to tears myself when Dorothy thought she might never see Toto again!

Happily this excellent central performance is complemented by a consistently high standard of acting from the other main parts - the scarecrow (Amy Taylor), the lion (Francy Reynolds), the tin man (Jade Simpson), the old humbug, Oz (Dan Waters), and the Wicked Witch of the West (Beth de Cent). This is very much a team effort though - who could forget the Blues Brother-style witch's slaves or the cheeky, dancing crows? Clearly every member has given this their all.

Well rehearsed and with some simple but stylish stage management this musical is obviously the result of a great deal of hard work, from the set design to the music and costumes. I could go on, but why not check it out for yourself? You will find comedy, songs and some very nerve-wracking moments in this well-rounded show. Bring a chair, bring a picnic, sit back and enjoy!

Stephanie Billen