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This Kingswood production is an innovative piece of children’s theatre exploring notions of how children should behave.

 

Through a series of workshops students, under the inspiring direction of Kate Nash, were able to imaginatively link dramatised poetry by Heinrich Hoffmann and Hilaire Belloc. The structure provided an energetic showcase for a huge cast of talented pupils in years 7, 8 and 9. The ensemble style of the production is a Kingswood Drama requisite and there was plenty of amusing, thought-provoking and at times, gruesome material to explore. It was a visual and aural threat of exciting movement, rousing choral chants, atmospheric lighting and clever use of school gym props to aid the story telling.

 

The audience could not fail to be impressed by the compelling energy of the enthusiastic cast. There were so many bright eyed, expressive faces to watch. With tales like “Harriet and the matches” “Jim- who ran away from his nurse and was eaten by a lion”, the performers were able to get across how being naughty can have serious consequences but in a clever, amusing and safe framework. It’s quite an achievement when we can laugh about death…. but danger, misadventure and gory endings are the stuff of many a great tale.

 

All “school child” performers were engaged and clearly relished being a little bit naughty. The colourful characters who played the school staff frowned, chastised and voiced the Victorian notions of how children should behave extremely well. In fact, they were a little bit scary! AWe can all appreciate how times have changed but some of the phrases like “Do your chores!”, “Listen to your elders!” “Because I said so…” are, I suspect, still repeated in households today. The central character of Rebecca had a lovely confidence.

 

She aptly asked the children to think about the “nice” things they had done and states that “no one is all right or all wrong.” When the formidable matron and staff were asked to consider if they had ever broken the rules, there was an amusing list of confessions … “didn’t vote, took a duvet day, crossed the road deliberately slowly, hid the receipt for the internet shopping.” The defeated matron could only conclude “do as I say, don’t do as I do.”

 

Cautionary Tales allowed for so many talented children to take part in a creative process and perform to a high level to a packed appreciative audience. Whilst it is sometimes difficult to keep the tension without a clear story thread, the tales and linking material entertained with great style.

 

Kingswood always achieves high production values and embraces the collaborative process. Children would have benefited from an insight into devising and adapting material as well as developing their performance skills. This all-round experience is of great value as young performers learn the craft of theatre. The Kingswood theatre crew must also be commended for their excellent technical support. A truly vibrant, well-executed and polished production.

 

Mel Lawman