Second Star to the Right

Directed by Francesca Murray Fuentes
Produced by Charles Rivington
Written and Assistant Directed by Sarah Gordon
Venue: Drama Barn
Rating: ****

When entering the Drama Barn it seemed more like I was walking back outside. The smell of the real grass that covered the floor filled the room, while the soft lighting mimicked the night sky. The performance was well underway before anyone had even taken a seat, with Twin One and Two (played by Patrick Fysh and Dan Wood) interacting with the audience as they moved across the colourful set. Though a disorientating experience, it created the feeling, at least for me, of entering a new and different world. I wasn’t just watching a play from the sidelines; I was part of it.

The play itself centres on Wendy (Beth Yarwood Smith), who is at odds with her surroundings. A proper English girl characterised by clichéd sayings and controlled movement; she is baffled by the unusual lifestyle of Peter (Tom Crowley) and the many chaotic and colourful characters that surround him. It is only when individuals from this collective come forward to share their stories that Wendy can begin to understand and empathise with them. The story of The Girl of the Sea (Veronica Hare), for example, was told with real pathos and the imaginative use of lighting to chart her dissent into disenchantment was profoundly moving.

The influences of Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland and A Midsummer Night’s Dream are explicit throughout , but where this play differs is in its exploration of the darker sides to these fantastical worlds. We see not only the anarchic abandonment, but also doubt, melancholy and isolation. Once I became more familiar with my strange surroundings , the true depth of the performance was revealed.

At times it was impossible to take in all that was happening; it was easy to miss many of the characters’ fleeting movements. The real downside of a play with so many little details is that you simply cannot see them all. This play is like a wind-up clock: starting with great energy, the performance darted quickly from one moment to the next. As it progressed, it began to slow down allowing melancholic undertones to surface until reaching the climax. It twisted and turned, with excellent uses of physical theatre to create real energy and vibrancy to the whole performance. A fantastic play with some brilliant acting, it is definitely worth going to see.

Second Star to the Right is running until March 14th.

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