National Theatre Connections - The Wardrobe and Heritage at Royal & Derngate (Royal and Underground)
The National Theatre of ten new plays for young people reached Northampton this week on its countrywide tour, and I was able on the first day to see two of them. Good fun they were too.
The first, The Wardrobe by Sam Holcroft was probably a cleverer idea on paper than the success on stage. The idea was that it told the tale of various interludes through time of the very same wardrobe and was made up of small parts, some of which worked more successfully than others. It was perhaps actually on the part of the performers than some parts felt more alive. Particularly the boys convent section which was superbly played by the group, as well as an earlier part where a young Alan Carr literally stole the show with his upper class performance.
Another thing that jarred a little was the actual staging and use of the wardrobe. It was bizarrely big at times and seemed in one section to have another exit. Fair enough for freedom of the play, but if you are really going to restrict your play idea to a wardrobe, you really need to work with the confines of it for the audience to accept it. A pleasant enough play though with a great idea, but did not really fulfil its promise.
Heritage, written by Dafydd James and performed by Stopsley High School however was a completely different story. Dark, funny and sometimes gloriously rude, this was a wonderful little play. A group of young people have been gathered together to perform a village anthem, but as the play develops, it becomes clear that all is not as it seems.
For the most part this feels like a modern day Lord Of The Flies, with a band of youngsters together, but not really getting on with one another and exchanging insults, potential romance and some really very funny conversations. The young performers were also excellent, with some huge potential in the future I should imagine if they stick with it.
This really is a very dark comedy and it is actually made I think much more powerful by the fact that the performers are so young. A real gem!