Friday, 5 April 2019

REVIEW: Moonfleet at the Watermill theatre, Newbury

The Watermill continues to prove it is a very special venue , intimate and friendly but consistently producing very good quality productions and with a strong active Senior Youth Group of years 7 to 11 supported by The Sackler Trust, Principal Supporter of The Watermill's core Education and Outreach work. The latest show is a very fine adaption by Danielle Pearson of the J Meade Falkner novel Moonfleet which uses a cast of 28 to tell the story of smugglers on the Dorset coast. 

Written as a story telling by the Mohunes, the inhabitants of the village, who appear to draw lots from a bag to cast the main parts at the start of show. But it is an ensemble piece with lines spread throughout the large cast who are well drilled to sharply deliver them in a rhythmic poetic fashion that keeps the audience engaged and interested. 

Director, Heidi Bird, packs the production with interesting visual ideas to add atmosphere and bring elements alive involving the whole cast. The Graveyard is eerily created by the young actors wrapping themselves in net, the Mohunes burial crypt has the dead faces pressed into the back cloth, when items are dropped in an eighty foot deep well we see them descend from hand to hand down until they land and when the ship sinks the waves are dramatically created with a simple sheet. There is a careful and effective lighting design with good use of projected images to create church windows , rain , water reflection, and silhouetted story telling by the production manager, Lawrence Doyle. 

It seems a little unfair to pick out individuals in this hardworking ensemble but inevitably the leading parts get a bigger profile and rise to the challenge of the story telling. John Trenchard, the young hero of the story is played by Luke Parsons with an innocent charm and his Smuggler partner Elzevir by Frank Smith, gradually building trust with John. Opposite them are the dastardly Edgar Maskew (Asher Dunnett) out to put them down and his daughter Grace (Nina Faithfull) who falls for John. There is also a good cameo from Isabelle Klein as Aldobrand, the double crossing jeweller. 

However the lasting impression is of the team working together in the opening and closing scenes to narrate the story in their short sharp lines delivered with clarity and precision in their distinctive "lost boys" style costumes and together enduring the story is told with pace and energy that is a real pleasure to observe.

Review by Nick Wayne

Rating: ★★★★

Seat: Stalls row F | Price of ticket: £12
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