Skip to main content

Review of Market Boy by The Royal & Derngate Actors Company at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

I have now written a little over two hundred and fifty reviews on this blog (yes I know, amazing. I am sorry). Most shows I have enjoyed, many I have given four star reviews, a good number have also got that lofty five stars from me. There is however hiding among them five star reviews, another tier of brilliance. One that lies in my head, where everything comes together to go beyond that five, but where I have nothing left to give. The play, the performances, the staging, and perhaps even more to elevate what is a personal opinion as a review, an actual personal emotional feeling or connection towards the piece.
Featured: Boy (Tom Cocker), Trader (Greg Dallas) and Mum (Helen Gibb)
Market Boy written by David Eldridge and performed by the Royal & Derngate Actors Company will (spoiler intended) receive five stars from me at the end of this review. However as that first paragraph suggests, this was one of those that went a little further for me. Set in what I happily claim as my decade and featuring throughout the music of that decade, which I claim as my own so called soundtrack of my life, Market Boy charts the rise and eventual fall of Thatcher Britain as experienced on Romford market through the eyes and lives of many larger than life traders. It is crude and extremely rude, much like a previous play, Days Of Significance, that I wholeheartedly rubbished a few months back, so whats the difference? Well Eldridge's script makes the important decision to actually make you like the characters within it, unlike Significance's characters, who are just horrible. Also while this is a very sweary play (and apparently one that made a number of audience members leave), every F and dreaded C somehow feels right, not only for the setting, but for the comedy effect. This is not lazy usage, this is clever and appropriate.
Tom Cocker as Boy
At the centre of the action is the Market Boy himself, played with superb progression by Tom Cocker. From the moment of his arrival in front of the safety curtain at the start of the production; ushered and cajoled by his Mum (a great little performance from Helen Gibb) into getting a job on the markets shoe stall, we visibly see Tom Cocker grow the character. At the start he is a brilliantly awkward teenager and into the second half, through his performance, we see him not only feel an older character, but also visible appear one as the years pass and his characters aggression takes hold. I have rarely seen a performance that travels with such clarity through a number of years, over the duration of a play.

His boss known as Trader is played with also a commanding and leering presence by Greg Dallas, all cocksure and certain to get the ladies into and promptly out of his stalls flash shoes for some activities in the back of his van. He is a typical larger than life trader, but one you can genuinely believe in, even if at times it gets a little like a swearing Only Fools And Horse situation.
Tom Cocker as Boy and Greg Dallas as Trader and cast.
Fellow shoe stall traders Don (Davin Eadie), Jason (Mark Yoxon) and Snooks (Ben Webb) are all also brilliantly created by the actors, with Ben in particular strong as the trader turned yuppy, up on his luck and as history then dictates, down on it. Great fun is made of his commonness, just in the way he uniquely says Porsche and Champagne.

Other standout performances in a universally brilliant cast are Alice McCracken as Boy's love interest, known simply as Girl. A captivating turn, full of high emotion and a genuinely classy performance delivering real tears in the sad final scenes, often beyond many professional performers. Will Adams is not only perfectly cast, but also really quite brilliant as the Meat Man, perhaps given three of the best received scenes on the night from the audience; with a simple stage re-entry to observe the treatment of his poultry; to a brilliant timed "Ah Bisto" moment; and finally perhaps one of the best moments in the play, the Churchillian speech, delivered impeccably.
Centre: Steve While as Nut-Nut and cast.
I loved Zoe Smith's interpretation of Thatcher and her reappearance during an acid trip will live long in the memory of individual theatre scenes. Sue Whyte's transforming Fish Woman is brilliantly and crudely delivered, with much more than a hint of relish, as is Vicky Kelly as Fat Annie and her lascivious attempts to make a man of Boy, portrayed in more than the very crudest of ways.

Stewart Magrath is an impossibly scary presence as The Toby, ruling the market with an iron fist and wielding his hammer with more than a hint of menace. His first appearance through the stalls and through our location of the front row, did really have its scary moments.
Featured: Ben Webb as Snooks and Tom Cocker as Boy, with cast.
I could effortlessly go on through the cast, as this without question had the strongest collection of amateur performances that I have yet seen. All of them brought something to proceedings, and perhaps not always seen every member of the large cast not only had lines, but real characters within them.

Director Jesse Jones also added an impressive amount of flair to the piece, using every space in the Royal, from front of curtain, to boxes, to aisles and in one case a deafening loud haler speech from the circle. The curtain rising to a ensemble performance to the strains of Frankie's Relax set the tone for a brilliant evening of comedy, drama and music. There was a simple but very effective set design from Meryl Couper, along with some nice use of lighting from Jonathan Designer, particularly prevalent during that Thatcher scene already alluded to above.

So yes, the amateurs of the Actors Company have produced a professional production, more enjoyable than any I have seen this year. Not only the best amateur show I have seen, but one of the top shows I have seen ever, with that something else factor. Bringing through it's brilliantly written script, a perfectly pitched historic time and place and a cast and production team of skill and dedication above and beyond many professional shows, a piece of theatre that I truly never will forget and one I so wish I had seen a second time. Simply brilliant in every way.

★★★★★

Performance reviewed: Saturday 23rd July, 2016 at the Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton.

Market Boy by the Royal & Derngate Actors Company was performed between Friday 22nd and Saturday 23rd July, 2016

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


(Photos: Graeme Braidwood)
Featured: Tom Cocker as Boy and Greg Dallas as Trader
Featured: Jo Watts as Spanish Girl
Greg Dallas as Trader and Tom Cocker as Boy

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Review of Rules For Living at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

It is possibly a rule in life for a few in the audience for the opening night of Sam Holcroft's domestic comedy Rules For Living not to mention Christmas until December. Therefore anyone of such a persuasion might have been a little perturbed to be presented on the 13th September with, an undeniably brilliantly dressed, homely Christmas scene.

Opening up in glorious dollhouse style and on a gorgeous little hinge, this little home of living room and kitchen sets the scene for a typical family Christmas. Mother Edith (Jane Booker) welcomes her sons, Matthew (Jolyon Coy) and Adam (Ed Hughes) and their respective partners, Carrie (Carlyss Peer) and Nicole (Laura Rogers) And with a final dramatic arrival of father Francis (Paul Shelley), the scene is very much set for comic antics of the highest calibre.

The first thing you get from Rules For Living in the first few minutes is the arrival of one of the most brilliant, yet simple concepts I have seen for a while in the play. These are …

Review of Make Way For Lucia by John Van Druten at The Playhouse Theatre, Northampton

There have been a couple of television versions of the Mapp & Lucia novels by E. F. Benson over the years and irrespective of which generation version you might have seen, the roles of Miss Mapp and Mrs. Lucas were filled with some heavyweight performers. So taking on these roles could, in theory, be a challenge too much to live up to. However, that would be if the characters themselves were less the sum of the performer. These are great characters on paper as well as on stage and therefore Gena McCrystal (Miss Mapp) and Juliet O'Connor (Lucia) make them very much their own in the stage adaption by John Van Druten.

Lucia has arrived and breezed both into the town of Tilling and the musical chair roundabout of house rental that is want to occur here. Her rented property is Miss Mapp's and for some reason, Mapp fails to follow the routine of keeping away, constantly "popping in", so the battle lines are drawn.
Make Way for Lucia is the typical battle of supremacy i…

Review of Once Upon A Grimm Tale by The Royal & Derngate Actors Company (Early) at Judge's Lodgings, Northampton

Once upon a time, there was a brave theatrical reviewer. He lived in a market town in deepest darkest Englaland, where many great and remarkable things of stage did occur. At the centre of this wondrous world of performing spectacles was a place referred to by many as the Royal Derngatus, a place of people pretending to be other people and telling tales of mystery, intrigue and frolics.

Within the fortressed walls of Royal Derngatus, there were a group of fearless players who entertained local folk for no reward, other than the thrill of seeing the joy in the faces of others. Those group of artists went by the name of Actors Companus, which many pronounced carefully when they did say it out loud. This group of merry men and women did have two forms, an early and a late, and but two days before this adventurous evening of forthcoming storytelling, the late group did perform for a third and final time a most amazing feat of theatre, going by the name of Great Expectations.


Our hero of thi…