Review: Echo Youth Trust's The Witches and Quick-brewed Macbeth - terrifyingly polished performances from dedicated young casts for Halloween
PUBLISHED: 18:09 23 October 2019 | UPDATED: 18:09 23 October 2019
(C) Echo Youth Theatre
The young performers of Echo Youth Theatre have two exciting productions on offer for half-term week, and both are perfect for Halloween involving either a hotel full of witches or at least three huddled round a cauldron.
Something wickedly good this way comes: Echo Youth Production has two Halloween treats this half-term, The Witches and Quick-Brewed Macbeth, both of which are
playing each day until Friday, both offering something very different for audiences of all ages.
The shows alternate between being performed at either 3pm or 7.30pm and are hosted in The Assembly House's Noverre Ballroom.
The Witches tells the story of a brave youngster and his Norwegian grandmother as they battle against England's child-hating witches - "horrible can be exciting" writes Roald Dahl, whose classic book has been adapted for the stage by David Wood and stars 16 young actors directed by Kerry Stanley with support from Charley Nicol, Cathy Wilson and Olivia Bourne.
If you need to identify a witch, the signs are obvious, we learn: they all wear gloves because they have claws instead of fingernails, they wear wigs because they're bald, they have big nose holes to sniff out children, they have square feet and blue spit. I am here to educate and entertain.
This is a very physical, clever performance from a young cast who give their all to Dahl's (actually quite scary!) story. Isabelle Marrison is confident and assured as Boy and Natasha Nudd is a wonderful Grandma and they are ably joined by Maisie Double-Cook as Bruno and Zoe Whiting as the Grand High Witch.
There's also a really strong ensemble cast of witches - Korben White, Charlotte Sprot, Maggie May Carey, Priya Hunter, Jack Rudd, Emerson Kelly-Clarke, Ellie Morgan, Ysolde Delahaye, Kylara Pope, Pippa Likins, Abagail Toomer and Maisie Fletcher are word perfect and are fabulous as the hateful child-hating hags.
There's puppetry, illusion, gymastics, dance and some truly incredible costumes and prosthetics with a set which is pared back but incredibly clever, turning two simple sets of stairs into a range of different scenes. Fast-paced, funny, scary and with some moments of real drama, this is a really polished performance from a very talented group of actors.
Quick-Brewed Macbeth sees the tone change, ushering in a darker atmosphere and an older group of performers.
An abridged version of Shakespeare's classic, the tale of Macbeth's murderous climb to the throne of Scotland delivers the mystery and magic of the original text in a condensed and easily-relatable form. Taking the lead is Harry Wilson, who makes the bloodthirsty role his own in a terrifying pairing with his stage wife, played by Morven Renfrew, who is great as Lady Macbeth, the real mastermind behind the crime.
Throughout, the cast speak the verse with such ease and presence that it's difficult to remember how young they all are. The Weird Sisters - Matilda Chitty, Posy O'Rourke and Jenny Nichol - are a looming presence that steal every scene they're in and Macduff (Toby Ellett), Banquo (Patrick Kopecny), King Duncan (Leo Gordon) and Donalbain (Archie Robertson) bring power and panache to roles that are complex and difficult.
There's a certain amount of artistic licence taken with Shakespeare's words to bring it to a modern audience by director Christopher Davidson, assisted by Kate Pantry and Zac Sowter, but none of the gravitas of the original play is lost.
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The production is slick and assured with a continuous underscoring of haunting sound effects and music which, with the lighting and pared-down set (the cauldron is superb!) creates a tension throughout the first act that promises - and delivers - great things.
Congratulations must also go to artistic director Dan Rayner, technical director Dave Myers and company director Jo Myers and the management team which make the Echo Youth Theatre such a vibrant resource for young people
* Both performances are supported by The Assembly House Trust, a registered charity. For more details of performances, visit www.echoyouththeatre.co.uk/events.