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