Play review by Julia Pattison: Malory Towers at York Theatre Royal

Malory Towers. Photo by Steve Tanner.
Malory Towers. Photo by Steve Tanner.

Play: Malory Towers

Venue: York Theatre Royal

Dates: Until Saturday, September 14

Review by: Julia Pattison

In the words of Angela Carter from Theatre Company Wise Children’s fabulous debut Wise Children which went down a storm in York back in March,“What a joy it is to dance and sing!”.

Oh yes indeed, and their follow-up production Malory Towers was brim full of inspiring dancing and singing, and was a delightfully, and unashamedly feel- good show.

I’m old enough to have read and thoroughly enjoyed Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers series (six books in all) and feel director Emma Rice has done a marvellous job adapting the books for a 21st century audience.

She’s captured the fizz and fun of the story, yet her tongue is firmly in her cheek at times.

Her brilliant cast ensured that we all had a spiffing night’s entertainment, and hopefully went away wanting to make the world a kinder place!

Lez Brotherston’s pop-up book design was inspired; a real feast for the eyes, with dormitory beds and trunks cleverly slotted underneath a school-hall stage. Simon Baker’s animated projections (Thunder’s race to the rescue, and the virtual blackboard writing being particular personal highlights) and Alastair David’s lively choreography all complemented the action on stage too.

As if that all wasn’t enough, with a cliff hanger, bed bouncing exuberance, and an amazing swimming pool scene, the music (mainly composed by Ian Ross) was marvellous, with superb harmonies from the talented cast that sent shivers up your spine.

Not sure that the Midsummer Night’s Dream scene worked completely, but it was a clever way to bring the story round full-circle, and back to the present.

Izuka Hoyle was a delight as hot-headed, kind Darrell Rivers, and it was an inspired piece of casting to have Vinnie Heaven as horse-mad Tomboy Bill. Rebecca Collingwood excelled as spoilt Gwendoline, making the reveal at the end of the play particularly poignant and Francesca Mills shone as all-round good egg Sally Hope.

Hope Springs Eternal in this wonderfully imaginative play, that transcends gender, and doesn’t take itself too seriously, yet clearly gets over the message that kindness counts.