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My review of Ophelia's Garden by the RDYouthTheatre at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

I have a special interest in the Royal & Derngate Youth Theatre's React-Respond after my play The Grandfather Clock was the very first play to be performed last year in its inception. The idea is that the theatre group reacts to the current Made In Northampton production with an original slightly themed response to the story within. Last year audience members were given the chance to submit ten minute plays to be performed in response to the then production Gaslight. Mine and three others had the honour to start the React-Respond ball rolling.

This time the youth theatre were to take existing work, that of William Shakepeare himself and weave it into a production linked to The Herbal Bed. Using sonnets and extracts from his work, director Ben Spiller took the young actors and ourselves to the not too distant future where children have once again become the ownership of their fathers after an old law is revived. Ophelia (Jasmine Smellie), who herself is banned from going out with Hamlet (Sophie Martin) invites all her friends to her garden for a peaceful protest.

Over the course of just twenty minutes or so each of the eighteen actors gets their moment to take front of stage as with a partner they perform brief little extracts from the Bard relating to their characters. I am far from an expert of Mr Shakespeare, so much, perhaps all of the pieces were unfamiliar to me. However many of the characters will be known, so as well as the aforementioned, we have Romeo (Jessica Rivett) and Juliet (Francesca Hall), and Benedick (Verity Sprigg) and Beatrice (Jodi Twinner).

It all combines into making an entertaining piece with all of the actors showing great understanding of the work they are performing and placing good performance into their brief opportunity. There was a massive nine of the performers back on stage from my own little play and it was excellent to see them all again for the first time since, with the exception of Samantha Skears who I had the pleasure of seeing in The Crucible in December. It was superb to see the Hall sisters (Safia and Francesca) who always bring much to their performances. I felt that Joseph Hedley was also great value as Orlando, and I am going to go along with the fact that little extra chant was meant to be there because it was a great moment. One standout performance that I must mention though is Beth Markey as Lorenzo. Putting such emotion into the role, it was an albeit brief but exceptional moment.

So once again a lovely little piece of theatre entertainment from a few actors of the future created with some flair from director Ben Spiller and a worthy continuation of the React-Respond theme. It returns once again for the Made In Northampton performance of Soul and it is then open for public submissions (sharpens typing fingers). Give it a go, its great fun even if you are not lucky enough to be selected.


Performance reviewed: Saturday 20th February, 2016 at the Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton.

Ophelia's Garden was performed at the Royal & Derngate (Derngate) on Saturday 13th and Saturday 20th, 2016.


For details about the next Royal-React-Respond see: http://www.royalandderngate.co.uk/Productions/290220/282700/Resources/SoulrRRR?view=Standard

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


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