Touring – reviewed at Thorington Theatre, Suffolk
Thorington is a new outdoor theatre, a beautiful bomb-crater amid tall sighing pine trees and beneath a great oak in Suffolk. It runs only one-night, occasionally two-night shows through the summer so won’t be reviewed often here, but this show by “A Certain Demographic” (founded to give older actors space to work) has got half a dozen more tour dates, so is worth noticing.
It’s a curiosity, one of those delightful sproutings now going around after the loss of two Edinburgh Fringes and a lot of lockdown frustration. Ian Sharp’s words and Tim Sutton’s music are applied with merriment – but some decent reverence too – to the great rolling iambics of John Milton. Indeed it is the closest modern thing you’ll see to the old Mummers’ Plays: less respectful than the Mystery Plays, more a matter of mixing in broad vernacular, jokes and characters from everyday life.
In medieval times that was rural life, but here it is bang up to date here, when Bonny Ambrose’s striding Lucifer becomes a sleazy striped-jacket lifestyle salesman offering “everything from mojitos to medium-range missiles”, and tempts Claire Cheetham’s Eve with an electric hedge-trimmer while Chris Walshaw’s deliberately tedious Adam, cast as a sweet septuagenarian with flowing locks forever naming animals and pruning, is getting a bit of a bore.
There are some early problems in the mix: after an introduction from an affable Gabriel (Sharp, who outdoors rather needs a mic) the ensemble, under excellent Eden trees made of umbrellas, open the show with a song whose words we can’t quite catch and an uninspiring dance. So the heart sinks a bit. It rises though, the moment Lucifer strides on, rebelling against God – “Thrones, Dominations, Princedoms, Virtues, Powers!!!…” and Milton takes over as he falls from heaven to the pit of Hell.
Thereafter the balance is perfect, Milton’s words used when most needed, balancing the nonsense. Cheetham is a sweet-toned Eve, with a lovely song and real innocence as she gazes on her reflection and meets her new Adam, and becomes serious fun when the bite of apple turns her raunchy. There is a fine cabaret number from Candy Fern’s Sin, offering us everything original and dirty (some audience flinched happily at her advances) and a second half double-act with her son, Death: who Harry Petrie depicts with considerable energy as a slavering, hungry malevolent ragged halfwit .
Jesus, arriving with final rebukes and promises and Milton’s own words, is Euan Lynch, another fine singer. In short, from 1667 to 2022, the old story echoes as it should.
TOUR DATES I can discover so far :
July 3rd – Baysgarth Park, Barton upon Humber – Shakespeare Festival – afternoon performance
July 9th – Broadbent Theatre, Halton Hall, Wragby – 2 performances, Matinee and evening.
July 10th – Epworth Rectory, Isle of Axholme – afternoon performance
July 16th Harpswell Gardens nr Lincoln – afternoon performance, possibly evening
July 17th – Scunthorpe Town Centre (Library & Art Gallery, under discussion TBC