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Review of School Shorts: Star Brave, Brian Gravy & Who's Afraid Of The Bogeyman? at Royal & Derngate (Underground), Northampton

The Royal & Derngate Youth Theatre School Shorts consisted of two acts and to add to my confused mind I watched act two first. However this matters not as each act consists of two completely separate plays. Act two features the plays Stay Brave, Brian Gravy by Carl Grose and Who's Afraid Of The Bogeyman? by Mike Kenny. Both plays are short (no flies on me) and roughly about 25 minutes, also these two in particular featured very tough and heavy subjects.

*

Stay Brave, Brian Gravy is the lighter of the two but even so revolves around the potential divorce of Brian's parents and their constant fighting and physical violence. The latter is handled in a lighthearted way complete with comedy sound effects. However this doesn't disguise from the seriousness of the situation of what these young actors are performing. A spin on the divorce nature in the second half of the play adds a neat and thankfully more lighthearted element to proceedings.

At the centre of the piece is a wonderful performance by Louis Sheldon as Brian Gravy, he keeps a playful edge to the role despite the obvious tough subject and despite being script in hand (as are all), he never uses it. Josie Adams and Lewis Varrier also handle their tough roles as Brian's parents well and maintain the level at the right point for children performing such characters. It is overall a lovely entertaining piece considering the subject matter and the ensemble in all their collection of bizarre costumes are a delight.


*

Who's Afraid Of The Bogeyman? for me was considerably different and much more uncomfortable to watch. Mixing the heavy subject of parents concern at a child missing and challenging an innocent in connection with it, was I felt a touch too much for such young children to perform. The play itself was cleverly constructed and had very smart use of sentences being completed by different cast members., This was performed generally well considering the obvious challenge of keeping them the sentance moving. The use of the ticking clock was a lovely device, as was the knocking on doors. This saw the switching of this between the distressed father's pleas for help and then to those at the door, and was a tremendously clever idea. It was actually I think a better play than the first, but for me it had this edge of not being appropriate for such a young cast.

Having said all that, I remain assured that R&D are working totally professionally with these youngsters and director Ashley Elbourne himself made it clear that they had worked more upon the development of the characters and their paths through the plays than the performance itself, and for me leaving that afternoon, that is all the assurance that I needed to hear.


Performance reviewed: Saturday 21st, 2015 (matinee) at the Royal & Derngate (Underground), Northampton.

Stay Brave, Brian Gravy and Who's Afraid Of The Bogeyman? were performed for School shorts
 by the R&D Youth Theatre at the Royal & Derngate on Friday 20th March and Saturday 21st March, 2015. Details here: http://www.royalandderngate.co.uk/whatson/2015-2016/Underground/SchoolShorts/?view=Standard

For further details about the Royal & Derngate visit their website at http://www.royalandderngate.co.uk/

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