Connecting Plays Review

Following their participation in the recent National Theatre Connections 500 festival, local youth group Characters Stage Company with their version of Bassett by James Graham, took to the boards again at St Margaret’s Hall, Bradford, on Saturday and took my breath away.

This exhilarating, startling snapshot of a generation who have inherited a world at war, performed by the older menders of Characters Stage Company, was coupled with Over 18, a new devised piece by the younger group working with writer Moira Townsend Williams and director Sophie Jacobs Wyburn.

Over 18 commented on the plight of youngsters at war ‘in response’ to Basset. The cast did an excellent job as they evoked the bombing of London; the plight of evacuees; the enlistment of under-age children in the American Civil War; and managed to snipe at the role of the media, too. Their commitment to drama was clear and each performed a variety of roles with enthusiasm.

Bassett, performed by the older group, specifically written for young people by rising star James Graham, was a modern, relevant and brilliantly nuanced by an outstanding cast. I might just as well have been at the Donmar or Hampstead. Music, costumes,Lighting all supported the group’s remarkable performance. Tensions build gradually as the group dynamic exposes the strength and fragility of the different characters and their relationships. The surprise ending had me on the edge of my seat. It’s not surprising that the production recently received a standing ovation at The Egg in Bath.

If I had one criticism, it would be that since Over 18 ‘was in response to Bassett’ the evening would have been better balanced in reverse, with this play performed second rather thank topping the bill. Nonetheless, I have no doubt that stars of the future are being born in Trowbridge – and we may not have long to wait before they are both treading the boards and lighting up the silver screen. Congratulations to the full company, producer Moira Townsend Williams, director Sophie Jacobs-Wyburn, set designer Hilary Statts and lighting designer Ziggy Jacobs Wyburn. Good job.

Written by Angela Clarence for Wiltshire Times