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четверг, 16 декабря 2010 г.

Tom Morris had planned to produce Swallows and Amazons at the National Theatre in London


Swallows and Amazons, Bristol Old Vic

Tom Morris had planned to produce Swallows and Amazons at the National Theatre in London, buoyed by the success of his production of War Horse. But when he moved to Bristol to become artistic director at the Old Vic, he was given permission to put on the new musical adaptation here, and thank goodness that he has, because Swallows and Amazons is a triumph.

I would doubt that there is a better Christmas theatre treat than Swallows and Amazons at the Bristol Old Vic anywhere in the country. There is so much joy, warmth and imagination, and Morris’ direction is superb.
As the children on stage plan their imaginary adventure, we as the audience join their imaginary world and create one of our own. There may be a bearded man playing seven-year-old Roger, but Stewart Wright becomes the ship’s boy in front of our eyes. ‘Wind’ and the sound of waves lapping and thunder thundering are all created on stage by musicians who are also the support cast.
Ribbons become water, a feather duster becomes a parrot and a violin becomes a tree, while in front of us the four Walker children become the Swallows and set sail to Wild Cat Island to escape the world of the barbarians, or adults.
Arthur Ransome’s book is a timeless children’s classic and its feelings of childhood wonder and the joy of play have all been faithfully transferred to the stage.
Every inch of the stage is also utilised as well as many of the nooks and crannies of Bristol’s historic theatre. Sometimes the children are among us or standing behind us, in a battle sequence with the dreaded pirate Captain Flint we become the participants, and in just one of the clever tricks of perspective, the boats Swallow and Amazon are passed over our heads.
In a stroke of genius, Morris asked Neil Hannon of The Divine Comedy if he could provide the music to this bold new work written by Helen Edmundson.

Hannon’s music is sublime, complete with some of the eccentric touches he is well-known for and hooks that will have you humming and singing away when leaving the theatre.
I sincerely hope that it will lead to an album as these songs could be heard again and again.
Two of the best characters and who have some of the best songs are the Beckett sisters, Nancy and Peggy, played by Celia Adams and Amy Booth-Steel (left).
Their ‘theme’ song has the memorable line: “Raised by our mum on the banks of the Amazon delta / With only the clouds and a four-bedroom house for shelter.”
The anarchic Amazons make a brilliant counterfoil to the two youngest Walker children, Titty and Roger, while the two sensible older children John and Susan (Stuart McLoughlin and Rosalie Craig) hover at the apex of childhood.
Titty, played by the gorgeously expressive Akiya Henry, is at the heart of the play. And her onstage swimming and dream sequence are two undoubted highlights of the two-and-a-half-hour show, along with the climactic battle sequence.
So thank you Tom Morris, Neil Hannon and all for this wonderful production, quite simply the best thing you will see in Bristol all year.

Swallows and Amazons is at the Bristol Old Vic until January 15. Visit www.bristololdvic.org.uk/swallowsandamazons.html to book and for more information.

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