Jack Spratt & the Voyage of the Saucy Sue               Friday, 8th January, 2015
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Review for the February issue of the Village Journal: Jack Spratt and the Voyage of the Saucy Sue On walking home after videoing the Thursday evening performance, and reflecting on just why I’d enjoyed it so much, a thought came into my head, which, when I later checked, came from Tolstoy: “There is no greatness where there is no simplicity, goodness and truth.”  And therein, I realised, lay the reason for my enjoyment. This had been a supremely uncluttered, unfussy exercise in seasonal entertainment, reviving, as was said in the programme, an early tradition of Wrington Drama Club - locally based-stories, local references, and local, well-known players. From the moment he/she entered stage left, creating an almost perceptible bow wave, Mark Halper’s Dame grabbed our attention and held it with the promise of delicious delights to come. Of course, David Buckley had to be Captain Joe, but in line with the welcome restraint on commercial references throughout Echo’s script (although I did detect one to Eastenders) his appearance thankfully didn’t attract the name Captain Birdseye. Ali Taylor again played a part which enabled her, too, to reprise her skill in gaining and maintaining an audience’s attention, coming among them at one point with a stand-up comedian’s confidence to comment on them. She proved she also has a fine singing voice. Simon Medd proved an able foil to her threats and machinations, as well as giving his Neptune a truly human sense of ruefulness at his misfortunes - like the highly topical reference (in that evening’s Points West) to the pinching of his trident in Bristol. Jim Swords and Sam Sprouting’s Big Tom and Little Tom worked well as a pair full of bounce, and Sam gave strong hints of great things to come, if he pursues the promise of his stage work. Absolutely delightful, too, were Charlotte Chilcott’s Aolia and her mermaid attendants. Charlotte’s another of the younger cast whose stage personality and presence should be encouraged by further roles in future productions. Thinking of the underwater scenes and the sinking of the Saucy Sue particularly, congratulations are in order for the setting and lighting effects, all the more effective for being simply and ingeniously done. Aolia’s smitten heart was given tuneful voice in her charming duet with Julie Kirby’s Jack Spratt, a pairing sensitively accompanied by David Tisdall and his combo, who ensured that all the cast’s singing came across with infectious enthusiasm. Echo Irving can rarely have played a part which put such sparse demands on her memory, but her “Aaarghs” and “Pieces of Eight” did the trick, as did her costume, which, like Chris Parnham’s Ollie the Octopus placed such emphasis on nonverbal communication - except when Chris succeeded in getting all the audience out of their seats to dance the dance. Fern Urquhart’s Thetis didn’t have all that much to say, but, by golly, nobody was in any doubt what she thought about Neptune and Nessie. Her softly enunciated “In your dreams” reached me at the very back of the hall, a reminder of her general ability to get across so much by facial expression and tone of voice. All the villagers, so few in number, nevertheless crowded the stage with gusto whnever the stage needed crowding, and all the costumes not hired stood fair comparison with those which were. The make-up, lighting, sound and set design all combined to give the cast every support to shine and give expression to Fred Cowgill’s direction. All in all, this production warrants another quotation, this time from Leonardo da Vinci: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” RT
Wrington Drama Club production