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Swallows and Amazons

Published by: Steve Burbridge on 7th Mar 2012 | View all blogs by Steve Burbridge

Amy Booth-Steel (Peggy Blackett) and Celia Adams (Nancy Blac.JPG

SWALLOWS AND AMAZONS - Darlington Civic Theatre

We all know that a child’s imagination is the most vivid, creative and boundless source of magic there can be and this production of the evergreen classic, Swallows and Amazons, certainly takes that as the basis of its staging. Indeed, the key to the success of Tom Morris’s production (which is produced for the Children’s Touring Partnership) is its simplistic ingenuity.

Instead of elaborately impressive sets and stunning special effects, the story is told with the aid of some fairly mundane props. These everyday items, which include feather dusters, pliers, ribbons, sheets and bin bags, are suddenly transformed into parrots, cormorants, boats and the ocean. It’s all very cleverly done and extremely believable, too.

Arthur Ransome wrote the novel in 1930 and, having never read the book, I am unable to comment on how faithful Helen Edmundson’s script remains to his original work. Certainly, though, the characterisation of the children: John (Richard Holt), Susan (Katie Moore), Titty (Akiya Henry) and Roger (Stewart Wright) are typical of middle-class kids from that era. Any surprising events are met with cries of ‘Golly!’, good news is received with jubilant choruses of ‘Hurrah!’ and anyone who behaves badly is ‘simply beastly’. They’re all so upright and conformist that, on occasion, you do find yourself wishing that the slightly more rebellious Nancy and Peggy Blackett (Celia Adams and Sophie Walker, respectively) will actually make them walk the plank!

Performances are of a good standard throughout and there is no denying that the ensemble (listed in the programme as the ‘Players in Blue’) are an extremely versatile bunch, with several of them playing more than one instrument. Neil Hannon’s songs suit the piece well, although some are a little over-used.

With the production running to approximately two and a half hours, and bearing in mind that it is a show aimed at children, there is some room for trimming. That said, though, come curtain call there was a positive response from the small, but enthusiastic, audience.

Steve Burbridge.

Runs until Saturday 10 March and then continues to tour.

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