Orpheus Rocks

Date 28th March 2022
Society First Act 2011
Venue Shanklin Theatre
Type of Production Musical
Director Traci Stockman
Musical Director Claire Cronin, Lottie Laidler, Rowan Lathey
Choreographer Maria Bavington, Dom Pope
Producer Traci Stockman
Written By Traci Stockman


Author: Christine Blow

In order to accommodate all of their students, First Act run workshops over three days and have traditionally merged these groups over two evenings for their productions. This time they extended this to three evenings which could account for the auditorium being less full than usual. However, loud applause was maintained throughout by the appreciative audience who clearly enjoyed this show enormously.

The welcome is always warm with a good atmosphere in the theatre ahead of the show and the traditional raffle well supported with some tempting prizes.

The programme was colourful, well presented and informative. It encompassed the cast changes over the three shows. There was a useful synopsis which prepared us for the tragic love story of Orpheus and his wife, Eurydice. After being bitten by a viper Eurydice is banished to the Underworld, Orpheus has to overcome many challenges in order to rescue his bride.

The show was divided into two acts the first being Orpheus Rocks with the second act named  After Show Party. It was good to see a list of the tutors and helpers as well as the production team. The helpers are invaluable and always manage to ensure the smooth running, seamlessly and unobtrusively giving confidence and encouragement to the cast members throughout their performances.

The set was cleverly versatile so that any scene shifting was kept to a minimum enabling the show to keep up its momentum. The props were well thought out, particularly the snake, guitar and huge eye.  The latter being used comically by the three witches. A highlight was the clever use of a blue sheet, representing a river, which had to be crossed. Orpheus (Christopher Ayers) and Eurydice (Maggie Murthwaite) demonstrated some nimble and confident dance movements to ‘Hold Back the River’ as they made the perilous crossing. The lighting was very effective with colourful changes to match the scene, for example, emerald green for the Underworld.

The cast wore predominantly black tee shirts and trousers with the main characters in more colourful costumes. For the second act, the black tee shirts were exchanged for a mix of various  bright colours. All shirts had their company name on the back and were worn with pride. Having uniforms certainly gave a professional touch.

Christopher Ayers is a dynamic dancer and he demonstrated his versatility in both acts. He was also a confident lead and, together with Maggie Murthwaite,  kept the plot moving along at a good pace. It is always a pleasure to see Rachel Stone on stage as she appears full of fun and adept at jollying other cast members along. In this show she also seemed much more confident and was word perfect. Her stage presence was outstanding. She was the ideal choice for the role of Hermes, the messenger of the Gods.

The choreography was excellent throughout as was the singing but most of all, the enjoyment and enthusiasm from the entire cast was obvious and very pleasing to witness. Once again, Sarah-Louise McEvoy proved to be a competent dancer and was a joy to watch. This show had been due to take place in 2020 and thus it was a long wait for the cast and audience alike. It was worth waiting for.

Act Two was a variety show which was student led with the chance for each cast member to showcase their individual talents. The enjoyable opening group number ‘Confident’, had been choreographed by one of the groups, with all cast members being involved. We were then treated to singing, with solos, a duet and an ABBA medley, dancing, comedy and even magic. It was enjoyable, entertaining and everyone performed with confidence and obvious enjoyment. A standout moment was Maggie Murthwaite dancing to ‘What A Feeling’, her head movements causing her ponytail to fly and swing. It was absolutely delightful and mesmerising.

The finale was ‘Everybody Dance’ and dance they did to rapturous applause and without any sign of tiredness.

The commitment of director, Traci Stockman together with the tutors and helpers really shone through and the team spirit and general enjoyment that First Act continue to demonstrate is superb. Their next show ‘Beauty and the Beast’ scheduled for November is eagerly anticipated.

Congratulations to everyone involved. Each and everyone should feel very proud.