by Lucy Rivers.

Tour to 10 May 2015.
Runs 1hr 55min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 2 April at The Egg, Theatre Royal Bath.

Annie gets her gun and fires on both barrels.
This is one of the most generous shows around. Not soft – there’s a Dickensian toughness to the poverty of early scenes showing the childhood of Phoebe Mosey in rural 19th-century Ohio. Then there’s her struggle as a young adult with guilt that her apparel and occupation weren’t suitable for a woman. But it’s generous spirited and celebrates goodness.

Phoebe was driven by enthusiasm and a remarkable skill. She loved shooting and was a dead-fire shot. Her Quaker father taught her only to kill living creatures when food was needed. After he died she almost became little orphan Annie (Anne was her middle name), being eventually farmed-out to callous foster-parents.

A moment of kindness from a stranger on a train helped her escape. She remembered his name when she needed a new one for herself, becoming Annie Oakley, making money from providing provisions for the local grocer before taking-up contest shooting, finally joining Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show, marrying fellow sharpshooter Frank Butler.

She used various names throughout her life; Lucy Rivers’ title is the English version of one given her by Chief Sitting Bull, whom she impressed with her shooting. Rivers shows them meeting as shadows within a tepee, a few still moments before Annie re-emerges into the pelting hurly-burly of the money-making White American world.

The play, directed by Amy Leach (whose name is linked to a growing number of successful pieces of theatre accessible to young audiences), was created with several theatres, including The Egg, young people’s wing of Bath Theatre Royal, where it opened. The Egg has its Incubator to nurse new projects into life, a process which doubtless helped develop the rich complexity and smooth blend of story and music, ensuring no thematic lumps clot the action.

The story develops the theme organically. Helping especially, among a very capable cast, is Verity Kirk’s Annie. She has to be sympathetic, but the performance never seeks sympathy. This is a tough, independent young woman, but one vulnerable to self-doubt and ill-treatment. A performance built through details of precise physical inflections, it also shows someone doin’ what comes natur’lly.

Pa/Mr Oakley/Mr Wolf/John Graham: Andy Clark.
Annie Oakley: Verity Kirk.
Frank Butler/Brother Kohn: David Leopold.
Ma/Mrs Eddington/George the Poodle: Paksie Vernon.
Buffalo Bill/Mr Katzenburger/Mrs Wolf: Andrew Whitehead.

Director: Amy Leach.
Designer: Hayley Grindle.
Lighting: James Whiteside.
Sound: Dan Lawrence.
Dramaturg: Richard Hurford.
Assistant director: Tyrrell Jones.

2015-04-14 10:58:08

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