The Battle of Boat
|Date||6th March 2020|
|Venue||The Brindley Theatre, Runcorn|
|Type of Production||Musical|
|Musical Director||Simon Pickup|
Author: Joe Clarke
CODYS opened their 2020 season this week with their production of the lesser known musical The Battle of Boat. Set in 1916, this story is told through the eyes of the children left behind in wartime and their quest to do their part for their country. This performance showcased two hours of emotive drama that was heartwarming, funny and thoroughly entertaining throughout. By far the best CODYS show to date, it’s fair to say that this was a smash hit!
Director Nick Cupit has created a piece of theatre that will stay on the forefront of people’s minds for a long time, but more importantly, live on in people’s hearts forever. This production is one of those pieces of theatre when all the stars align to create an outstanding production and a memory that exceeds expectation. Visually, this production was stunning! The lighting design was one of the best that I’ve ever seen-both amateur and professionally. Despite using a very minimalistic set, this production needed nothing more. The clever use of star cloth, camouflage backdrop, trees, projections and boat, provided the audience with enough to establish locations and let us use our imaginations to fill in the blanks. The direction for the boat scene was particularly good and visually great. The audience loved and appreciated the use of screens, the last post track and poppy drop which was very moving and emotive. Whilst some of the staging was very far back and some of the actors upstaged each other, I felt that this was a naturalistic interpretation which added to the style and creativity of the whole piece. There are so many superlatives that I could use to describe this production, but all I was say is that this was an outstanding piece of theatre!
The musical director for this production was Simon Pickup. Despite Sondheim being VERY hard to sing, this show seemed MUCH harder. However, under Simon’s clever musical direction, the singing was outstanding! The harmonies were excellent and a fantastic showcase for the obvious talent from the cast. Some of the timing was slightly off at times but this was down to individual interpretation by acting through song and the young cast were able to claw it back every single time. I cannot express just how good the vocals were in this production - not only that, the acting through song was equally as good, if not better!
Although there are no choreographed routines in this show due to the style of the piece, I appreciated the structured movement that was incorporated throughout. The fight scenes and the frantic assembly type movement were great, as were the stylised unisons in ‘Then We’ll Fight’. Well done to Laura Cupit for her efforts.
The costumes really helped establish style and era and I loved the colours used for each character - which also helped show individual characterisation. The sound was great (although I would’ve preferred the character of William’s mic turned up slightly as the actor didn’t project enough). The props and set used were used with purpose in creative ways that added to the humour and the visuals.
One of the stars of the show was Poppy Williams. Poppy played this character with grace, poise and maturity beyond her years. Poppy’s voice was stunning to listen to and her acting through song was superb. This was an outstanding performance from someone who clearly has a future in professional theatre!
Beagle was played by Isaac Hartill. It’s abundantly clear why Isaac has won a NODA award two years running. This was another wonderful comedic performance with brilliant comic timing from a child who is one of the best actors I’ve seen! A brilliantly funny, moving and heart-warming performance.
Beagles two sidekicks Jack and Felix were played by Harvey Farrell and Dan Willson respectively. Both boys were able to showcase their skills and had their moments to shine.
William, the protagonist, was well played by Oliver White. Despite the lack of projection, Oliver gave a great performance and well-cast in this role. His song with Francis ‘Helpless’ was one of the highlights of the night!
William’s love interest, Sybil, was wonderfully played by Mary Hemington. Mary gave a great performance that oozed class and maturity and she sang beautifully throughout. Mary also had great stage presence and a lovely sense of maturity.
Emma Brew was brilliantly cast as the Tomboy & aggressive Florence. Emma’s line delivery and comic timing, collated with her dry wit and beautiful vocals, made her one of the standout performances of the night! Her song ‘My Dad’ was brilliantly funny!
Francis’s other friend, Gladys, was played by Ellie Heavey. Ellie was strong in this role and her vocals were stunning!
The ‘baddie’, Gripper, was brilliantly played by NODA award winner Ewan Schooler. Ewan gave a commanding performance which showcase his great acting skills. Ewan is great at using his physicality to convey character and this was another great interpretation of character.
Grippers’ sidekicks were played by Richard Connolly, Joe Bostock, Isobel Green and Juleanne Escutin. Each had their own part to play and each sang well (especially Green) and told their story in a way that helped build tension and add to the overall theme.
Other characters worthy of a mention were Jimmy, played by Max Greenough, who shone on stage with his presence, vocals and storytelling skills (one to watch for the future), and Zak Kilpatrick was brilliant as Sammy the Dog. I found myself constantly watching the puppet rather than the actor which speaks volumes. Zak showcased the dog’s breathing down to a T!
The large ensemble cast added strong vocals and a strong presence onstage to deliver this message and add to the tension. A lot of the supporting cast had their own chance to sing solo’s which was great to see. The special moments were when the whole company came together on stage to deliver songs such as ‘What we get up to’ and ‘The Battle of Boat’. There really is a lot of talent in this large company and this bodes well for their next production of We Will Rock You in September. As you can clearly tell from this review, the singing and the acting was very strong in this, from all. The leading cast were superb and along with the stylised movement, clever direction, fantastic lighting design and stunning harmonies – this production was a huge hit!
I thank CODYS for their wonderful hospitality and wish them all the very best for their next production of We Will Rock You in September.