The Noble Nine
Reviewed – 30th January 2019
“has a slow start but gets stronger throughout to pack an unexpected and gripping finish”
Estelle West, illustrious author of The Noble Nine novel series, is on her death bed. West’s eight estranged grandchildren (a loyal hamster completes the nine) reunite and reminisce over their childhood adventures when they were the inspiration for dear Noona’s tales. Idyllic memories of simpler days spent picnicking and watching the otters frolic expose bitterness and tension towards tomboy Bammie (Claudia Grant) who is now engaged to Hank and a functioning adult. With Estelle’s shock reveal that their inheritance is hidden as gold in the family mansion, the grandchildren visit the remote island where they spent their childhood for one last caper. But will it ever feel the same again? Dark secrets of the past are unearthed, unleashing a bloodthirsty brawl to haunting chants of ‘leave it to the nine’.
In the damp warren of tunnels below Waterloo station Toby Vaughan as a wide-eyed presenter comically totters into the cavern to set the scene. Vaughan succeeds in captivating the audience in all his roles, later appearing as perishing Estelle and as an overbearing estate agent. Whimsical Winnie (Ella Bruccoleri) and Oldest Arthur (Ryan Dooey) are memorable as the trailblazers of the group, bringing a psychotic twist to our Edith Blyton childhood fantasies. This is offset by Bookish Hen, the reluctant cousin, physicalised nicely by Willy Hudson. Jennifer Leong, Dipo Ola and Claudia Grant complete a strong cast.
Performing in a damp-smelling subterranean space is in some ways an atmospheric backdrop well-suited to this adventure. Theatre Tewl capitalise on the long stretch of space between the audience as the nine hunt around the manor for treasure. Lighting is used playfully, and the lack of set design seems fitting. Unfortunately, dialogue is often lost due to inevitable background noise and the feat of staging scenes to be visible to all. Nonetheless the abundance of witty jokes is well-received.
Polina Kalinina’s direction and Matt Parvin’s writing have strong potential but need fine tuning to ensure the completeness and consistency of this spoof. The piece has a slow start but gets stronger throughout to pack an unexpected and gripping finish. The overarching plot which sees relationships unravel and depicts a desperate need for the out of touch troupe to save the day is at points sensational. Particularly hilarious touches included Oldest Arthur’s recurring preoccupation with German spies and Romantic Gregory’s struggle to revive his poetic skills.
This is a promising debut play from Theatre Tewl with strong foundations for a thrilling and unmissable dark comedy.
Reviewed by Beth Partington
Photography courtesy Theatre Tewl
The Noble Nine
Part of VAULT Festival 2019
Reviewed – 28 May 2017
“A thought provoking play featuring two terrific actors”
With a general election just a couple of weeks away the manifesto pledges of the main parties have a focus on education, whether it be funding or the drive to improve emotional health and wellbeing. Interesting timing then for a play about the relationship of a teacher and a former pupil which is told at the Finborough Theatre for a four week limited season.
Jam is a play by Matt Parvin who trained at the Royal Court Theatre and the Arcola Theatre Writers Programme. His professional debut Two Roads premiered at VAULT Festival in 2015.
It isn’t clear why the play is called Jam. A couple of explanations could be ‘in a bad situation or serious trouble’ or ‘Just About Managing’. Either would be appropriate as the story recalls each character explaining what happened 10 years ago between them and how they are managing life since. It certainly covers the need for emotional health and wellbeing in the school place and beyond.
Kane McCarthy is a 23 year ex-pupil with ADHD who has tracked down his old school history teacher Isabella Soroush 10 years after a classroom incident that caused her to leave her job.
The play opens with Bella working late and alone in an upper state school reviewing and marking work. This relaxed situation is interrupted by the arrival of Kane, partly dressed in combat clothing and with a back pack which, it turns out, holds a baseball bat. He immediately brings an uncomfortable atmosphere to the stage, violence always seems a short distance away. Tension remains throughout.
Over the course of the next 90 minutes we learn about what happened between the pair, seen from opposing viewpoints. Initially it seemed that Bella was a victim of an unpleasant attack by Kane but as the dialogue develops the details are far more complicated. There are underlying references to the social stereo typing of Kane by Bella and also racism by Kane against Bella.
The audience is taken on a roller coaster ride of emotion siding with each character in turn, yet wondering then whether each are telling the truth and therefore who to believe. Is Bella as innocent as she seems? Does Kane have a life limiting illness? So many questions are posed though not all are answered. The writing cleverly makes the audience think about the content long after they have left the venue.
What makes this production stand out are the terrific performances from both Harry Melling (Kane) and Jasmine Hyde (Bella). Neither could have given more to the production. Melling, who is known for work on the Harry Potter films, commands the stage well and is totally believable as the damaged young man he portrays. Hyde is confident throughout though she has a greater role as the story progresses. Both are accomplished actors of stage and screen, appearing comfortable in handling their challenging parts in Jam.
Parvin’s writing has much to be applauded though there was a slight feeling that some of the content could have been better developed. Overall though it was a thought provoking piece of theatre enthusiastically approved of by the attentive audience. The stage setting though minimal was appropriate for the production.
Photography by Mathew Foster
is at the Finborough Theatre until June 17th