by Mark Twain adapted by Jemma Kennedy.

Unicorn Theatre 147 Tooley Street SE1 2HZ To 13 January 2013.
10.30am 8, 10 Jan.
11am 11 Jan.
1.30pm 9 Jan.
2pm 6, 8, 10, 12, 13 Jan.
Post-show Discussion 9 Jan.
Relaxed Performance: 10 Jan 2pm, 12 Jan.
Runs 2hr 20min One interval.

TICKETS: 020 7645 0560.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 30 December.

American slice of Tudor life that, for once, is not Hollywood.
Here’s one Christmas story with a happy, but hardly a fairytale ending. The time which an English boy-prince and an abused lad from London’s proletariat spend in each other’s clothes and living each other’s lives may be short and troublesome, but when order is restored and happiness increased, it’s not for ever after; history knows there’s death for one and a bloody time for most people up ahead. Edward VI reigned as Protestantism was established in England far further than his father Henry VIII had ever envisioned, to be followed after the boy’s death by the return of Catholicism on the boil, with heretic burning rampant.

In fact, Mark Twain’s idealistic interlude comes amid violent times which only Elizabeth I – travestied here by a male actor – would discover a way to sort out. Twain’s is a fictional story of finding out how the other 99% (or 1%) live, along with the point Arnold Bennett would make on page and stage, that people judge by externals and context. Get the clothes right, be in the right place and people will make all kinds of adjustments or disbelieve any number of claims that contradict the apparent evidence.

Jemma Kennedy’s stage adaptation tells Twain’s story efficiently, keeping the likeness and casting cross-gender for boyish voices with identical twin sisters Nicole and Danielle Bird as Twain’s lookalike kids, costumes identifying and voices classing them apart. The changes in accent, marking-out how the two boys are learning to live their lives at opposite ends of society, is the most truly dramatic device in a story that otherwise slogs in short scenes through the novel’s episodes.

Clear and colourful, thanks to Garance Marneur’s flexible Tudor recreations, there’s a genuine sense of oppression from the abusive pauper father in Nicholas Boulton’s bullying John Canty. Contrastingly, Jake Harders offers a firm, unshowy strength as the protective Miles Hendon.

It’s an unusual, interesting choice for the Christmas slot, and, if it doesn’t escape its origins on the page in structure and events, this show offers the attraction of a land distant in time that reflects on London, and England, today.

Prince Edward/Guildhall Servant: Danielle Bird.
Tom Canty/Prisoner 3: Nichole Bird.
Rich Gentleman/John Canty/Henry VIII/Servant 1/Spanish Ambassador/Judge/Jailer/Taylor: Njcholas Boulton.
Father Andrew/Royal Doctor/Beggar 2/Hobbs/Watchman/Prisoner 4/Archbishop: Richard Evans.
Rent Collector/Beggar 1/Lord Hertford/Sentry Guard/Servant 3/Constable/Sir Hugh/Prisoner 1: Jonathan Glew.
Busker/Servant 2/Miles Hendon/French Ambassador: Jake Harders.
Fine Lady/Bet/Lady Elizabeth/Serving Wench/reveller/Prisoner 2: Jason Ma Canty/Lord Chancellor/Woman with Pig/Lady Edith: Katherine Toy.

Director: Selina Cartmell.
Designer/Projections: Garance Marneur.
Lighting: Chahine Yavroyan.
Composer/Music Director: Antony Elvin.
Musical Supervisor: Tom Curran.
Movement/Fight Director: Kate Waters.
Costume: Susan Kulkarni.

2013-01-08 14:56:29

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