Writers: Jessica Duffield and Annie Kirkman
Producer: Ellie Claughton
Set/Props: Ed Ullyart
Lighting/Technical Director: Simon Bedwell
Reviewer: Ron Simpson
On first acquaintance with She Productions, the company is mightily impressive, and it’s greatcredit to the East Riding Theatre for giving them the opportunity to develop as an in-house company. She Productions was formed last year as an all-female ensemble by a group of young local actors and one of the main aspects of the company’s work is creatingoriginal theatre for children and young people.
The StorytEllas has all the imagination, energy, and freshness of youth that you could hope for, but even more impressive are the professionalism and maturity of the performances, the spot-on timing of the ensemble playing and the range of theatrical and musical skills on offer. Visually it’s pretty good, too, with neat and witty images and animations on screen and effects including a mighty pea shoot, sort of like a beanstalk.
Two of the cast of five, Jessica Duffield and Annie Kirkman, have produced a script that is silly in the right sort of way, a sort of anti-fairy story. Three girls, under the guidance of the Pea (unrelentingly French, like a refugee from ‘Allo ‘Allo), set out on a journey of discovery. Cindy, obsessed with finding a glass shoe, has the most obvious fairy-tale connection, but there are incidents recalling the likes of Rapunzel and Jack and the Beanstalk. However, despite the magic and the journey to another world, the message is not to think of fairy-tale solutions, but make your own decisions and write your own story.
Rachel Barnes and Alice Rose Palmer are an irresistible double act as two very self-obsessed girls: Pru, all selfies, Facebook and food fads, and Ruby, always impatient for the next sweet, never without a biscuit. Annie Kirkman’s one-shoe Cindy is a doleful contrast to the ebullient duo until she, too, explodes into life via a song.
Hannah Levy’s Pea is a comical and sympathetic bridge to the young audience and mixes wise advice with extremely bad puns and magic tricks of dubious authenticity. In deliberate contrast to the over-the-top precision of the other four performances, Jessica Duffield is natural and almost underplayed as the Prince Kirk Ella, before she, too, has her moments as a Book Worm and, especially, a marathon-running Gingerbread Person (don’t you dare say “Man”!).
Under Ellie Claughton’s direction, the production all fits together perfectly. Movement is imaginative, amusing and smartly synchronised – Jon Beney gets a credit for choreography. The songs range from an impossibly vigorous, audience-participatory running song to some attractive ballads. The audience is involved from the very start. What a nice idea to have a small audience member announce the show at the beginning, but then StorytEllas is full of nice ideas!
Runs until 29 August 2016 | Image: Stephen Meredith