|Date||18th October 2018|
|Society||Leigh Operatic & Dramatic Society|
|Venue||Palace Theatre Westcliff-on-Sea|
|Type of Production||Musical|
|Musical Director||Rachael Plunkett|
Author: Tessa Davies
I think it was a very brave decision for LODS to undertake this production. It has a serious and compelling message for our society and, although set in the 1890s, it still has a lot of resonance for today’s audiences. Artistically it was a good choice, but I suspect that it may not have been such a good choice from a business perspective. Personally, I like to be entertained when I go to the theatre, so this production was always going to be one that I would find difficult to watch.
However, there is no doubt about the sincerity and passion of the cast, particularly the younger members for whom the content must be important. Understanding the attitude of society in 1891 is crucial to appreciating the production. The, largely, older audience at this performance did seem to understand the underlying meaning in the text. Again, I found it a bit distasteful, but I completely appreciate the effectiveness of the actors’ performances.
The two young leads, Eva Tobin (Wendla) and James Cohen (Melchior) were very good, Eva, in particular, has a lovely voice which she used to great effect. James produced good a characterisation, giving Melchior just the right amount of angst. Matthew Wallace portrayed Moritz extremely well. His body language fully supported the character and we were in no doubt about his anxiety and shame at his adolescent thoughts.
The remainder of the young Principals all had their characters well defined, we quickly understood each one’s behaviour patterns. It is a large cast of young Principals and each of them had a recognisable character. LODS has an extremely talented group of performers for these roles.
The ‘adults’ were also strong performers, making this a very powerful production. Having all the cast on stage for virtually the whole performance may have been a gamble on Director, Andrew Seal’s part, but it paid off. The singing, as we have come to expect, from LODS, was outstanding and congratulations are due to MD Rachael Plunkett. Choreographer Laura Hurrell had quite a challenge as a lot of the ‘choreography’ was in hand movements and spatial transitions. The cast had it to a fine art, beautifully timed and completely in sync.
The standing set was impressive, and the choreographed movement of the chairs and other small props was particularly good, well timed and very well executed. Costumes were appropriate although one or two did not work as well as the rest. Lighting was exceptional. Well done to the lighting operator, who had the timing of the lighting changes perfectly. The sound of both the band and the artistes was also very well done, accurate and effective.
As I have said at the beginning of this review, I like to be entertained when I go to the theatre, this production made me a little uncomfortable, but I suspect that is exactly what the writers and creators had in mind. The cast deserve a larger audience, than we saw at this performance, as their performances were all strong. But I suspect a lot of other theatre goers would also find this a little too uncomfortable to watch. Maybe in 5 years’ time the content will be more acceptable to the older generation.
I don’t think this will be a show that many societies will take on, unfortunately getting an audience is critical to the continuance of most societies these days.
My thanks to LODS for your hospitality, I am glad I got to see the show.