25th and 26th July 2014
The Barn, Frouds Lane, Aldermaston
Freely adapted for male and female pirates by Phil Willmott, from the novel by Robert Louis Stevenson
Outdoor theatre in England is a risky business and in their first outdoor production in 2012, Aldermaston Players were hindered by heavy rain. No such issue this time. Blessed by the weather this production shone from the first to the last. Known for their inspired choices of material with which to work, the company fleshed out the plentiful and varied roles with relish. It was a delight to see a stage so bristling with enthusiasm and this transferred to the large delighted audience, many of whom were captivated children. The script offered plenty for the cast to work with and told the story clearly.
Speaking with the show’s assistant director before the start, I was told to look out for the new and inexperienced faces cast in this show. What makes this company special is the talent pool available. Not just locals but enthusiasts from far and wide. So it surprised me that the show was even and the new faces fitted well. Often there is a danger that newcomers will be overawed and stilted. Not here.
The voices all worked well and only on a few occasions did I miss dialogue. But this is not Shakespeare, although he would have been familiar with the staging, one could argue. This was a delightful Pantomime with Christmas nowhere in sight. Again I was delighted with an array of costumes of the highest standard. There is nothing more off-putting than an uncomfortable and ill-fitting costume. These were outstanding. Each garment, prop and wig chosen with care and subtlety. I was particularly impressed by the parrot and its handler. I wished him a bigger role!
Highlights for me included the boat going ashore; no loss of concentration as it pulled away to the island, the cheese sketch; an opportunity for the running gag and the sword fight; mayhem! I wanted more songs from the cast members I know can sing, but those we were offered were splendid.
The audience participated when required and clapped enthusiastically at many zany moments, and loudly at the end.