11th April 2019
Kingsely Community Centre
Type of Production
Author: Joe Clarke
Tonight, I had the opportunity to see the world premier of the play, Peterloo, written and directed by Lynn Pegler and performed by the cast of Kingsley Players. Set in 1819, this play uses many drama conventions such as stillness, freeze frames, foreshadowing and direct address to give it a modern feel. The director, Lynn Pegler, was able to bring her vision to life with this great piece of theatre. Using a minimalist set, helped keep the scene changes slick, which enabled the pace to be kept high. This play had projections onto the white backdrop which helped establish location. Actors wore authentic costumes which enabled the audience to engage with the characters more. I was particularly impressed with the crowd scene on St Peter’s Field which was a direct comparison to the crowd scene photograph/projection behind the actors. There were numerous positives in the direction of this piece. Overall, I, along with the audience were impressed with the level of commitment from the cast. Their storytelling and commitment to their roles was very strong. This clever script was a fantastic storyboard which enabled each actor to have their moment. The emotive language used, helped each actor to tell their story with emotion and a high level of making the audience aware of the Peterloo Massacre.
I was impressed by the costumes used for each actor. It helped establish the characters social class. The costumes of the gentry were particularly strong. Well done to the costume team for the obvious hard work.
This play used minimal lighting. There were no special effects or gobos used but it didn’t need it. There were times when a few of the actors didn’t hit their mark to step into their light but this was mostly during the crowd scene. I actually quite liked the fact that there were shadows cast amongst the faces of the actors and the crowd. This helped to give it a more eerily feel.
Even though the cast did not have head mics, they didn’t need it. Although the acoustics are quite good in this small space, the casts’ projection was particularly strong. All sound cues were made on time and the music added another dimension to the scene changes. I would’ve preferred if the music could have been faded out a little more, rather than stopped but this is just a personal preference.
Lots of the actors multi-rolled as different characters. Each character had their own costume which enabled the audience to know who was who.
Ceri Bellis played the role of the mill owners Daughter, Catherine. Ceri was well cast and had great diction, articulation and story-telling. She also had a good rapport with the other actors.
Hazel Betteridge played the role of Mary Fildes. Hazel was good in this role as the leader of the Manchester Women’s Reform Union. I liked her crowd scene – she told the story of her real-life character very well.
Jeanette Foden Sahin-Ajerlo played various roles. I really like Jeanette’s acting. She was very strong and quite captivating. I also got a little emotional when she was delivering her monologue during the crowd scene.
Simon Hetherington is a strong and naturalistic actor who played various roles. I loved Simon’s version of the Cavalry Officer – Charles Gilmore. Simon told his story very well and I liked how each character was suitably different.
Henry Hunt was played by Matt Jones. Matt had excellent diction, articulation and projection. He is a great storyteller and looked very natural being onstage.
Mick McHugh played a number of roles. I liked the passion and commitment that Mick gave on stage. There were a few memory lapses on stage (it was opening night) but I liked the way that Mick used his voice to convey story and character.
Stephanie Owens played the role of the maid, Betty. Stephanie looked a little nervous as she looked at the floor at times when speaking but she had a nice rapport with Ceri (Catherine Gilmore).
James Phoenix played the role of Daniel, the unemployed weaver. I really liked Daniel. He had a good stage presence and worked well with the other actors. Daniel also was very emotive in his storytelling.
There are far too many other actors for me to mention but what I will say that every single actor committed to their roles with conviction. It was very pleasing to see more experienced actors on stage – we need more of that! Because this was based on a true story, the seriousness of the plot was easily portrayed by all of the actors. A particular highlight for me was the crowd scene when the cavalry were attacking the crowd. I loved the use of freeze-frames (in shadow) to spotlight the monologues. I also loved the screaming and shouting to heighten the emotion. It made the whole scene very emotive and at times I was horrified to see and hear what these real-life people went through on this day in 1819. Overall, this was a great play and very well received by the audience. I congratulate Lynn Pegler on writing and directing this piece. I also wish Kingsley Players the very best for their upcoming production of James and the Giant Peach in May.