Emma Rice, artistic director of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, made her name as director and then artistic director of Kneehigh, Cornwall’s International Theatre, the creator of productions in quarries, woods, industrial ruins and on cliff tops. Rice now revives Kneehigh’s most recent production, which was originally staged in a purpose-built tent.
946: The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips is an adaptation of a novel by Michael Morpurgo, the former Children’s Laureate and famed author of War Horse. The story is set in 1944 in Devon during a rehearsal for the D-Day landings in Normandy. 946 refers to the number of men who drowned during a training exercise, a disaster which was hushed-up and not told until long after the war had finished. Tips is a cat that goes missing. He is played by a puppet. There is also an endearing puppet dog.
The appeal of the show, which is very family-orientated, is that all the children are played by adult actors. If there is an award for best performance of a 12-year-old by an adult actor then Katy Owen is an obvious contender. Verbally and physically, Owen is extraordinarily convincing. Her scenes with an evacuee (Adam Sopp, admirable), whose dad has been killed in North Africa, are a delight. Together they create a credible childlike world.
The story pays tribute to the American black GIs (represented by Ncuti Gatwa and Nandi Bhebhe) and their friendly relationship with a community which has never seen a black person before. Following its run at Shakespeare’s Globe, Rice’s production will be touring the UK and America. Take the whole family.
Can the team that made the Matilda musical such a hit repeat that success again? Groundhog Day at The Old Vic is based on the highly popular 1993 movie starring Bill Murray and is aimed at a more grown-up and sophisticated audience. A cynical, abrasive and self-centred TV weatherman (Andy Karl) finds himself stuck in a time loop, doomed to spend his life repeating the same day over and over. He invariably wakes up at 6am and it is always February 2. There is no tomorrow. And he will go on reliving the same day until he improves his character. It could be a 1930s moral fable by Frank Capra.
The talented Andy Karl has charm even when he is being charmless. Danny Rubin’s dialogue is witty; Tim Minchin’s lyrics are witty. Matthew Warchus’s production is also witty, as is Rob Howell’s design. But does Groundhog Day really need to be turned into a musical? Isn’t the movie sufficiently fulfilling in itself?
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