Skip to main content

Review of Flash Festival 2019: Rise by Workbench Theatre Company at Castle Hill URC

We are welcomed to the first meeting of Rise Northampton, as the audience gathers, soon to become the members of that first meet of environmental group Rise, at least one of the cast, to the eagle-eyed, is mingling with the paying audience before taking their seats.

The first scene represents us as the audience of that first meeting, with planted cast interacting with group leader Emma (Franky Harris), offering sage comments at times, others not. Whizzing forward to the next meet, and we are no longer group audience, the stranglers of the cast, the six, form all that come to the next meeting. I know this problem well.

Rise is sharp, clever, fun and informative, laying us the environmental issues in a way that doesn't preach, and perhaps does more than many things before to put the issue to the front of your mind. It really is that clever.

It helps that all of the characters are great, all very individual, and even while there is a conflict between them, they all are very well-meaning people, and yes, you can like them all.

Harris' Franky is a glorious delight, all ridiculously friendly and attempting to keep a reign on any bad behaviour. It becomes an even better character as the play develops and Franky starts to break her own rules, offering even more humour from an already humour-filled character. Likewise the serious parts, and this does get very serious, are balanced well with Franky and all the comedy aspects of the other characters.

A case in point of comedy balanced with seriousness is the brilliant performance of Esther Bartholomew as Martha, a character that would have fitted perfectly in that old comedy The Brittas Empire (on before this cast were born, a shocking thought), and Joseph Mattingley as the insecure Rod, still almost a child in his innocence, but beyond all the comedy and the aww factor he brings early on, has amazing power when the group find themselves making an incredible decision late in the play.

Chris Cutler is huge fun as the posh, perhaps out of place Freddy, who while last to come into the fateful decision, shows as we do expect the resilience to come through in the end. Daniel Hubery's Jeoph (Jeff or Geoff to you, a brilliantly played joke) is perhaps the least likeable character, coming in with his opinions, and decisions that go greatly against the group's ethics. However, despite his antagonistic nature, he also becomes one of the funniest characters thanks to Hubery's now trademark deadpan delivery, and ability to create hysterics just from a look. I don't doubt that Mr Hubery will go far.

Finally, Hannah Magrath's Sapphire takes a slight backseat during much of the play, channelling just great use of her facial gestures in her scenes. The character though has perhaps the most important scene at the end though, and Magrath gives it a controlled and emotional delivery that ends this brilliantly constructed play on a very thoughtful note.

Rise is excellently created, performed with style and goes more distance in putting its theme across than many a dry news report can do. Highly entertaining and thought-provoking indeed.

Performance viewed: Friday 5th April 2019

The Flash Festival 2019 ran until Sunday 7th April 2019 at venues across the town.
Details here: 
Flash Festival 2019

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 Sister Act by the Northampton Musical Theatre Company at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

South Pacific at Royal & Derngate last year set a remarkable benchmark for an "amateur" production, with a large talented cast, superb vocals, sets and a polish up there with a professional production. Sister Act, this years production from the Northampton Musical Theatre Company was more of the same, but perhaps taken up a notch or two. Sister Act is a musical based on the 1992 Whoopi Goldberg comedy and was first performed in 2009. Written by Bill and Cheri Steinkellner, it is a likable and fun musical which genuinely came as a surprise to me. The opening scene at Curtis's Bar and Nightclub is to be honest not the best though and genuinely didn't fill me with much hope. It feels as if it gives nothing to the cast, although it creates the premise of the story coupled with the incident outside the bar. Likewise, I didn't take much to the Police Station scene either, so it didn't bode well. When we reach the Queen Of Angels Cathedral though, this show

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