Royal and Derngate Youth Theatre

Royal and Derngate


I was privileged to attend the Saturday performance of DNA by Dennis Kelly. Under the direction of Christopher Gorry I was treated to a well thought out; well cast production full of humour, dark thoughts and deeds and great acting.

My first mention must surely go to Sound Designer, Martin Thompson and Lighting Designer James Delamere for scaring me out of my seat at the very beginning. Gentlemen, you got my full attention!

There were a number of members of the cast whose faces I had seen a few times before but some whose were fresh to my gaze.

As in most productions there are some people whose performance really stood out and not necessarily due to the size of their part.  The first of these was Rebecca Kilby-Smith as Cathy. Rebecca is blessed with a remarkable face that can show huge differences of emotion with just the slightest muscle movement. Delightfully indifferent to the death of their friend at first before finally becoming quite sinister and malevolent at the end, Rebecca was at her very best.

One of the smaller parts was that of Bryony played this night by Hannah York. A week weeping creature transformed into a semi hysterical laughing girl, rubbing the bark and earth happily into her face as her mind frays and finally disintegrates, Hannah was remarkable. Quite how she kept up the insane laughing and giggling I do not know.

Esther Taylor was a new name and face to me. (Forgive me Esther if I have seen you before. I am getting old!). As Leah, she failed miserably to have a dialogue with her boyfriend Phil (Jay Head) but delivered perfectly monologue after monologue as the play progressed. She sometimes raved, often rambled as she tried to get some sort of response out of the perpetually hungry Phil. Thanks to her and her character I know much more than I ever wished to know about certain members of the ape family!  Fantastic performance Esther: you were blessed with some of the best lines but you it was your delivery that made them work.

The previously mentioned Jay Head as Phil, was right at the beginning the envy of every member of the audience as we sat and perspired, he sat and really enjoyed an ice cream. Boy, did he enjoy that Ice cream! He also managed to tuck away crisps, waffles and a lovely looking muffin. Jay must have been starving himself for the 24hrs before as he tucked in with gusto, while sitting totally impassive and unmoved by those sitting next to him speaking directly to him. I think Phil was lucky Leah didn’t punch his lights out for ignoring her.

This was a lovely performance by all involved and my apologies if you have not had a mention by name but the sum of the parts truly do make up the whole and there was not bad performance to be seen.

Director Christopher Gorry continues to get the best out of his young actors and some 6 months into his position, it is great to see the group tacking such different pieces.

I have to admit it was not until I was home that I realised the meaning behind “Cast X and Cast Y” in the programme. What a really nice subtle touch!

Thank you everyone, on stage and behind the scenes for a very entertaining and enjoyable evening. Take a bow. You all deserve it!




The Actors Company

Royal and Derngate Theatre


On a horrendously hot and humid evening I had the pleasure of being entertained by a classic Greek tragedy written back in 441 b.c. by a cool guy name Sophocles. I can tell you now that Sophocles was the only cool one last night. The rest of us were melting.

We were greeted by the players already on stage, and if you have read any of my previous reviews you will know how much I love that. Even better, due to the fact that the entire ensemble was behind the gauze drop, many members of the audience did not even realise they were there. All they could see was the poor dead soul on the front of the stage.

Tina Barratt as our ill-fated but feisty heroine cut a diminutive figure but her delivery was powerful and well observed. She played her part and played it well throughout and despite being thrown around quite a bit by the nasty Creon, she remained proud, haughty and defiant.

Now talking of Creon, Steve While filled his considerable boots extremely well. Loud, arrogant, latterly confused and finally devastated Steve gave the King’s emotions full reign and was well cast.

Now I must admit I read Antigone a few weeks back when I first bought my tickets and at no time did I ever believe I would find any laughs in the great play. I now know better after watching Ben Webb and Erica Mynard as the two sentries who discover Antigone tending the forbidden corpse of Polynieces. Their “don’t blame me guv” routine was a delight to watch and was a very welcome piece of levity in what is otherwise a pretty heavy piece.

I would like to state here and now that I do love a good Greek Chorus! Well I was delighted by the strength and excellent timing of last night Greek Chorus. Its never easy speaking in unison yet I never heard a late word or missed syllable. This would be a good point to add in my admiration for the whole cast as their delivery of their lines was so beautifully clear. I have sat through many professional companies straining to hear through the mumbling. None of that last night. Crystal clear and delivered right to my ear.

The use of the music, composed by Simon Evans-White was ideal. The music itself was thrilling and perfect for the piece.

Likewise the set and lighting, so simple yet so effective was ideal and kudos to Meryl Couper for both.

Trudy A Bell, you know I could and would cheerfully write a couple of sides of A4 on your direction but suffice to say, you never disappoint. You give your talent so freely and it is obvious that the cast feeds from it and goes the extra mile with you in the director’s chair.

The Actors Company is always a pleasure to watch and I will always come back for more when I see their name in the Royal and Derngate programme.

Thank you all for a great night of Greek Tragedy and I hope that one day modern writers will bring back the Greek Chorus to our stages.

Final mention goes of course to the delightful small tortoise shell butterfly that ignored the violence, death and tragedy around her and fluttered on and off stage with grace.




The Demon Baber of Fleet Street

Royal and Derngate Youth Theatre


A professional theatre group would worry about taking on a Stephen Sondheim musical. Always intricate and hard to sing and play, the ever changing chords and difficult syncopation, Sondheim’s music is a joy to listen to but a bear to perform. So to see a youth theatre company with ages spread from 14 to 23 not only take it on but master it in some considerable style was a surprise and a joy.

Under the direction of Christopher Gorry we were treated to a night of fun, drama and bloodshed. The opening ensemble piece had me certain I was in for a great night and I was never disappointed. The high pitched shrieking set a nice fever pitch for what was to come.

Brett Mason as Sweeney himself seemed to take a little while to open up to the full potential of his role but once in full flow was powerful, brooding and quite magnificent long before the second half.

The male singing talent of the night surely goes to Michael Ryan as the love lorn Anthony. From his opening song “No place like London” through to the end he displayed considerable vocal dexterity. My personal favourite being “Joanna”.  I am pleased to say his acting talent complimented his vocal skills.

Without a doubt the start turn of the night was Amara Browning as the totally demented Mrs Lovatt. While it’s true, her character gets the best lines in the play, she also performed them with a talent that belied her age and her stature. Now unlike some divas, Amara never tried to steal the limelight and in fact everyone else in the cast was driven to new heights when they were on stage with her. This is a remarkable young lady who should she choose a career in theatre would go far.  

The rest of the ensemble attacked this difficult piece with vigour and passion and made the whole thing a very professional and enjoyable evening for a full house in the Royal Theatre.

Special mention to Fergal O’Mahoney and his tiny but oh so effective orchestra. As I said previously, a difficult score, almost impossible to sight read and performed extremely well.

I wish more people would come and enjoy the performances of the Youth Theatre. It’s a shame that often there are no more than a handful of audience members who are not connected to the players on stage. It’s also a shame that these same family members do not come to the theatre when their kith and kin are not on stage.

Sorry, back off my soapbox! All in all a great night of fun, drama and wholesale slaughter!

Every last member of the Youth Theatre, whether on stage or working in the wings, take a bow. You were great!