Skip to main content

Review of Immune by R&D Youth Theatre at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

The cover note for the script of Oladipo Agboluaje's Immune describes it as "a challenging science fiction play with a large cast", and the word challenging in this case is not a lie. This is a fast paced, multi-cast changing script which leaves little room for error for its young cast in the performance. If the script isn't enough to handle for the young performers, director Christopher Elmer-Gorry and designer Carl Davies have made the situation even more complex for the actors with the set and stage work. Having to manhandle great panels on wheels and a huge cube, which also splits in two occasionally, during scene changes requires skill, coordination and cooperation of a high level.

As if all this is not enough, the actual story is epic enough for the relatively small stage of the Royal. Attempting to form an apocalyptic world (albeit only happening in Plymouth) offers challenges in itself, but Agboluaje's script does that in a sort of apocalypse in the teacup style. The release of the gas (stimulating on the nose in the auditorium) and the eventual depiction of the mass of bodies is vividly told through the young actors reactions. We can see the horror through their eyes, even if nothing is ever seen on stage.

While the large cast of actors are all great in their individual roles, I can't help but pick a few for a mixture of both performance and great developed characters by the writer. Owen Howard is wonderful as the desperate Craig who feels the weight of thinking he will be remembered for destroying the world. Also Ethan Kelly is quietly superb as the god fearing Peter, portraying his fears that he personally has brought this upon everyone with excellent emotion. Finally Esme Joy Allen, who had happily ate dirt in a previous performance of DNA I had seen last year, was simply wonderful as the flirty, hair flipping Bella and I felt quite a pang of fear midway though the play for what befell her character.

There are a number of magic little scenes not least the class group performances providing some "cool" dancing, singing and a gloriously desperate Angie (Emily Winnett) needing to show her video, "I've done mine". The slow motion fight at the top of the cube between George and Eric is also wonderful little gem, excellently performed by Jake Carter and Jarzinho Rapoz. Also the final scene of the strike is also spectacularly well staged, totally lighting up the Royal as the end arrives, and with that poignant final scene. Getting that perfect finish to a play can be challenging at times, but Immune has no problems with it.

Agboluaje has created through working with the three youth theatre groups a clever, thoughtful piece of work brimming with neat ideas. Those like the individual characters speaking out their thoughts is superbly ingenious, as is the ensemble speaking in unison the words of the unseen adults.

It all combined creates a clever full hour of entertainment. which is without doubt the most complex R&D youth company play I have seen to date, I am sure that it will go a long way to provide the skills so early for any of the performers who seek to make this their career. This straight after the triumphantly clever Kontakt has provided a couple of weeks of magic for the youth theatre at Royal & Derngate. Under the expert guidance there at the moment, they just might be creating a few little stars of the future.


Performance reviewed: Thursday 3rd July, 2015 at the Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton.

Immune is performed by the R&D Youth Theatre at the Royal & Derngate between Thursday 3rd July and Saturday 4th July, 2015, before being performed by Courtyard Theatre, West Yorkshire from 23rd July, 2015 and Theatre Royal Plymouth from Wednesday 19th August, 2015.

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


Popular posts from this blog

Review of Blue/Orange at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

The challenging and socially relevant Blue/Orange by Joe Penhall was published in 2000 and back then, this caustic exploration of mental health, and more specifically black mental health issues, was a tremendously relevant play. When it debuted on stage in London, the cast of just three was played by Bill Nighy, Andrew Lincoln and Chiwetel Ejiofor. Director James Dacre doesn't have those names to play with so much in his cast, however here, he has worked with the writer himself to rework the play for a more modern audience. Does it still shock, and is the relevance still there today? Sadly, perhaps, the answer is yes, as doctors Bruce Flaherty and Robert Smith come to verbal blows over the health of patient Christopher, at times, you feel 21 years shed little light on how mental health is approached. Many references in the script, still sit unquestionably in the year 2000, however, with this reworking, one thing has changed dramatically. In the original version of the play, the two

Review of Shrek (NMTC) at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

Three and a half years ago, in a land far far away, in a world very different to the one we are now in, I saw the touring professional production of Shrek The Musical , it was a mixed bag of quality, tilted extremely heavily in favour of one particular character (not the one you might expect) and not firing on all cylinders much of the time. One and a half years after my last visit to the Derngate theatre, I return to see the homegrown Northampton Musical Theatre Company's own take on the very same show. Would they be able to breathe more life into the show than the professionals did in that distant land? It is a bit of a yes and no really. Pretty much all of this is done to the best possible standard, and at times, with being an amateur show you could easily forget, they all have normal day jobs. The show oozes professional quality at times. The set looks magnificent, the costumes (from Molly Limpet's Theatrical Emporium) are superb, and as ever with NMTC, the backstage team c

Review of Hacktivists by Ben Ockrent performed by R&D Youth Theatre at Royal & Derngate (Underground), Northampton

The National Theatres Connections series of plays had been one of my highlights of my trips to R&D during 2014. Their short and snappy single act style kept them all interesting and never overstaying their welcome. So I was more than ready for my first encounter with one of this years Connections plays ahead of the main week of performances at R&D later in the year. Hacktivists is written by Ben Ockrent, whose slightly wacky but socially relevant play Breeders I had seen at St James Theatre last year. Hacktivists is less surreal, but does have a fair selection of what some people would call odd. Myself of the other hand would very much be home with them. So we are presented with thirteen nerdy "friends" who meet to hack, very much in what is termed the white hat variety. This being for good, as we join them they appear to have done very little more than hacked and created some LED light device. Crashing in to spoil the party however comes Beth (Emma-Ann Cranston)