Navutu Stars Resort on Yaqeta Island, the Yasawa group, Fiji
I’ve always wanted to take my kids to a tropical island because I was taken to a few as a kid, and the magic of snorkelling in crystal clear waters and seeing fish I could only ever dream of has stayed with me my whole life. When my Mum spent a few days in Fiji last year at Navutu Stars resort in the Yasawa Islands and came back raving about it I pushed go on plans to spend Xmas there with my three grown children, my hubby, and my mum. We spent almost the entire year planning and paying for what would be a momentous trip, probably the last as a family since our oldest son turned twenty and moved out of home a few weeks before we left. It was nice to know that he’d be stuck with us, on an island for ten days.
Our first stop in Fiji just two days before Xmas was at the Fiji Gateway Hotel where the hot Fiji atmosphere and a large pool were already giving us that Fiji vibe, it was a nice convenient place to stay as a pit stop before we caught the transfer bus to the port in the morning. I’d been concerned about the potential for sea sickness (which my kids and hubby seem to be prone to) when I’d booked the four hour boat trip to Navutu Stars on the Yasawa Flyer. Mum had convinced me it was ‘an idyllic island hopping cruise all the way and it wouldn’t be a problem, and besides the seaplane, which only takes an hour, was more expensive’. The fly in the ointment of this trip was the uncharacteristically rough day on the ocean we encountered. Four hours worth of watching my family vomit into seasick bags was not something I’d planned for, and it was excruciating. When we finally arrived in our destination I wondered whether I’d be able to get them off the boat and onto the boat the resort had sent out to retrieve us. I don’t know how we managed but we did.
Sam the boat skipper from Navutu Stars resort was calm in the face of our obvious distress, welcoming us with a firm handshake and bringing us to shore where we were greeted like royalty with song and welcome signs from the staff. Somehow we staggered from the boat to shore and emerged into an oasis of calm, an absolute paradise which was almost tear- inducing.
In an open-sided lounge bure we were given fruit cocktails, and flannels for our sweaty brows. Dan a darling of a Fijian man talked soothingly to us as our racing hearts began to beat a more healthy rhythm. We were not rushed off to our rooms quickly; Dan wanted us to feel relaxed and happy first. Once we were restored to a better version of ourselves Dan took us along the beach front which was dotted with coconut trees, frangipane and hibiscus plants, and surrounded by warm clear water, to our bures. Mum’s bure was tucked down a path fringed with plant life, and over some rocks, round the corner, up some stone steps and across a beautiful garden was our larger bure.
We were awestruck by the fusion of modern and traditional simplicity that combined to create a luxurious place to stay. Crystal clear waters lapped at the shore at the end of our front lawn, and a hammock, two day beds and two sun loungers were ours to use in total privacy. Relaxation was breathed into our souls. We spent very little time chucking our togs on and heading into the sea. Swimming together in the warm waters of a remote island paradise was pure magic.
Navutu Stars Resort, the only resort on Yaqeta Island, accommodates around twenty guests aged twelve and over (it was no coincidence that I chose this place) . During our ten day stay we met people from the UK, Australia, Monaco, Japan, and Canada. One couple had a private wedding ceremony on the beach. The small number of people allowed the opportunity to get to know others so a nice little community formed during our stay.
The dining area was a large covered deck with views over the ocean, and the place where you get to meet and mingle with staff and other guests away from your own little sanctuary. Other than great food and an unlimited offering of drinks and cocktails at the bar there is also a blackboard of information and activities which is updated daily. It became part of our evening to check the board for new arrival and departure updates and to think about whether we wanted to take part in any activities on offer the next day.
Activities included walks to the local village, turtle spotting trips, snorkeling trips, coconut demonstrations, kava ceremony, Fijian language lessons, limestone caves adventures, weaving lessons and coral restoration lessons. Some activities were free of charge and others had a cost associated. We made the most of our time and among us managed to give every activity our attention enjoying some great snorkeling opportunities together.
Having snorkeled as a child over coral reefs holding my Mum’s hand it was a wonderful experience doing the same with my kids, it was a bonus that mum was there to witness it all too. Ruvi (our guide and a bit of a joker) tried to convince us that there are no sharks in Fiji, and failing to convince us of that he moved on to trying to convince us that the sharks in Fiji were all vegetarians. Regardless, I never saw a shark on the five snorkeling trips I was lucky enough to take but I did see beautiful fish in that magical underwater world.
Yoga sessions are offered for free every morning at 7 am on the outdoor deck nestled among the treetops where you can breathe in the beauty all around as the sun comes up. I managed three mornings but was too lazy in the other seven mornings to make it. It doesn’t matter; you’re there to relax, and to choose how that happens for you.
If you want to indulge in some luxury there is a beauty spa at the resort. Tucked away at a discreet distance along the beach you will receive your free thirty minute massage either inside the bure or outside on the beach. There are a variety of beauty spa treatments on offer from facials to body wraps. I enjoyed a side by side massage with my hubby (his first ever massage), and a few days later one with my Mum. While I was away swimming through the limestone caves my daughters enjoyed a relaxing massage together. It’s unlikely that any of us will forget the luxury of Fijian massage in such beautiful surroundings. Honestly, I could have had a massage everyday...
The activities hut is where you can find everything you need for a good time. “Can I grab a kayak please”, “can I get a towel”, “book me on that snorkelling trip tomorrow” etc. Our requests were always greeted with enthusiasm from the friendly and very funny activity guys Ruvi, Kikau and Sam to name a few, who were always ready with a good joke or strumming away on a guitar. All five of us were given our own snorkelling gear at the activities hut to keep for the duration of our stay. Many times we chucked our snorkelling gear on outside our bures and swam around the rocks and mangroves watching fish swimming about before returning to shore and falling into our hammocks.
The salt water pool with its expansive deck and relaxing cabana furnished with daybeds was a great place to hang out and chat. Better still the staff were more than happy to bring us drinks, snacks and coffee as we lazed about whiling away relaxing holiday days and staring off to the beautiful ocean blue. We’d often meet by the pool after an excursion and catch up over a drink.
Walking back to our bures along the beach at night was magical. The sea lapped up on the shore, and at high tide we’d often be walking with warm water around our ankles as we ventured back to our island home (don’t worry there’s an alternative inland route). We witnessed some incredible sunsets, saw a stingray hovering in the shallows and watched crabs skittering out of our way. We were in no way mature enough to ignore the allure of the frogs and geckos. At night frogs hopped around the lawn outside our bure, we were often out there counting them up and seeking them out with our torches. They were quiet frogs, minding their own business but it was strangely fascinating to watch them, and I guess we had oodles of time to do so.
We consumed many cocktails and virgin cocktails during our stay and made friends with the lovely staff. It was hard to wrench ourselves away and head home (thankfully the magic of facebook has helped us keep in touch) but it lives on as a paradisaical dream in our memories.
Our trip back on the Yasawa Flyer was like an answered prayer. I’d administered sea legs pills for the return journey but they were unnecessary. It was a hot, sunny day on clear and calm waters.
Navutu Stars offers eco-luxe accommodation in the Yasawa Islands group. It is mid-range expenses wise but provides luxury and exclusivity that one would expect for a much higher price. It was absolute paradise on that tiny little spot in the Pacific Ocean, seasoned with love by exceptional caring and helpful staff. If you want to spoil yourself with some peace and tranquillity you will find it here.
Rock of Ages
By Abbey Musical Theatre
Directed by Phil Anstis
Review date - 23 November 2017
Okay, so I hadn’t done my homework on Rock of Ages before I rocked up to Abbey Theatre’s opening night (ignorance isn’t all bad) so I had no idea what it was about, and zero expectations. My theatre companion for the night was harping on about how she’d always wanted to see it and blah, blah, blah, but to be fair some of her entertainment choices are a bit questionable. Settling into our seats and leafing through the programme together we hit the ‘musical number’s’ page and gave each other the smiling version of a high-five! From Bon Jovi’s ‘Dead or Alive’ to Foreigner’s ‘I Want to Know what Love is’ there was an impressive list of absolute bangers to look forward to. I got excited.
Set in the legendary ‘The Bourbon Room’ of West Hollywood fame, the stage came alive with music, colour, dance and some great laughs. Skipping in and out of the role of narrator and character Lonny Barnett was Nick Ross – OMG!!!! What a funny guy. He really was a bit of a legend, honestly, I don’t know how to encapsulate effectively how great he was as he skilfully injected laughs at just the right time. Rock on Nick Ross, I salute you.
As one of the lead characters, I recognised Riley Booth (Sherrie Christian) from many singing events and knew her singing would be exceptional. What I wasn’t expecting was for her to be a triple threat, also excelling in dance and acting. Riley left nothing behind, she was a tender yet gutsy and totally believable character. A performance of this calibre for her young age was absolutely outstanding. Riley was truly a star of the show.
Another absolute rock star was Liam Taylor as womanising Stacee Jaxx. Liam has impressed me before and did not fail to again. Total embodiment of his character and great commitment to some challenging songs Stacee Jaxx was the rock god every groupie wanted to be with.
Tyrell Beck as Sherrie Christian’s love interest Drew Boley expertly managed the depth of emotion required for the kind and tender role he played. I've seen Tyrell in a previous show and it was great to see him play a totally different role with the same high standard of acting. Some notes in the numbers he had to sing were a challenge for him to reach but he committed to them none the less.
Jason Harkett (Franz Klineman) with his caricature-style German accent was a crowd favourite with his unerring commitment to character.
The band was handily inserted into the show and residing on the stage, a great option, as they kept everything rocking along. I reckon musical director Michael Doody managed all the music stuff well because there was a lot of it weaving its way through characters, and timing was crucial.
High energy dancers filled the stage with va-va -voom and brought ‘The Bourbon Room’ to life, they must have been exhausted by the time the curtain came down.
Rock of Ages is a fun and exciting show to watch with some standout performances and great music. Although there were a few sound issues on opening night they in no way affected the enjoyment of the show and should be ironed out before subsequent showings.
Abbey Theatre has really rocked this one and laughs came readily from a well entertained audience.
By Ross Gumbley and Allison Horsley
Directed by Dan Pengelly
Review Date: 4th November 2017
Centrepoint’s latest production Ropable opened on Saturday night. Advertised as a ‘Killer Christmas Comedy’ you may guess that it’s a bit of a black comedy, and you may not guess that the Christmas part refers to the fact that Centrepoint are bringing it to you near Christmas time...
Adapted for our local audiences’ particular enjoyment, this version of Ross Gumbley and Allison Horsley’s Ropable is set in Shannon with a lot of witty one-liners and colloquial knowledge that weaves extra fun into the show. As young ghost writer Eden Forsyth plans her wedding at the 'Shan In' to celebrity Monty Parker, who has been married a few times before, it seems Eden might be getting entangled in a 'bad romance'. Surprises abound as Norma the manager of the 'Shan In', Auntie Prudence, and Eden's mother Constance, all attempt to intervene to protect Eden from Monty's unfaithful and drug-fueled ways. But things are never what they seem...
An older audience may get extra kicks out of this Alfred Hitchcock murder mystery parody but younger people will not miss out on any of the fun for not knowing (as was evidenced by my thirteen year old’s enjoyment of the show). Everything needed for a bit of fun and frivolity was there, from sexual innuendo, frights, great props, suspense, and good old fashioned laughs, to psychological thrills and spills.
A strong cast kept Ropable tight, their strength and skill knitting together to make sure the comedy delivery didn’t unravel into awkward or cringe-worthy moments. Carrie Green’s role as Norma Bates the manager of ‘Shan In’ was wonderfully portrayed, her combination of intimidation, sexual prowess, physical comedy, and deadpan deliveries coming together in a terrifyingly funny way.
Mark Wright was a bit of a surprise. At first I thought he was not really pulling off his role as Monty, but it turns out he was playing his role as an annoying, idiotic, philandering ****hole really well. Later when Eden’s father Nigel wanders on stage unexpectedly, it took me a while to realise it was Mark Wright in more than simply different clothes. Both roles were poles apart and my feelings towards them were too.
Innocent Eden played by Torum Heng strung everyone along, Eden’s mother Constance played by Lori Dungey brought colour and va-va-voom with her, and Auntie Prudence played by Yvette Parsons performance was a real ‘scream’!
Excellent use of lighting and sound effects provided great mood and brought shock elements to life. The set lent itself to producing a larger than life environment to work with, from the upstairs vertigo suite to the sauna and outside to some amusingly named landscape features. Imaginary places fed by clever set arrangement expanded the play into the unseen. Alfred Hitchcock references riddled the set, and a keen eye will find plenty to smile about.
Ropable doesn’t take itself seriously, everyone’s there for a bit of a laugh and there’s plenty to laugh about. If you feel like unraveling from the stresses of the silly season, check into Ropable’s ‘Shan in’ and enjoy a rollicking ride.
27th October 2017
Director Ian Harman
BURLESQUE! BOOM, BOOM!
Centrepoint Theatre was transformed into a haven of French-style glamour to celebrate the 10th anniversary chapter of The Boom Boom Room Burlesque with Tease-o-Rama! As expected from director Ian Harman a highly polished show, combined with a classy set provided great entertainment for a spellbound crowd. A full house lined up for Friday night’s premiere, some raucous and some getting into the spirit of it all and dressed to thrill...
Flesh, feathers, sparkles, sweetness and oh so much teasing kept an enraptured audience eating out of these ladies well manicured hands throughout the show. The alluring French accent of an off-stage MC wafted over the audience providing excellent entertainment as each delicious lady was introduced with their alter ego names matching a variety of fun themes. Costa DeMillion showed off her mastery of the art of burlesque revealing her years of experience with The Boom Boom Room with exceptional performances.
Mistresses of tease, these glamorous ladies were delightfully attired in a range of the most beautiful (and well fitting) lingerie – costuming on point. I seriously chastised myself for my own ill-fitting, mismatched and shabby underwear choices and wondered how I might look in high heels, pretty lingerie, and just of dot of the sexiness of the burlesque babes – oh la la!
I’m not sure whether the audience knew quite how to respond, sometimes it seemed there was a bit of enchanted silence which might not be the desired response. Personally if I was going to dance around in my lingerie I’d expect people to be screaming with delight. Someone who does know how to make an audience respond the way he wants is Mr Lola Illusion (Ian Harman) who offered some magical moments, some vulnerability, and a decent shaking of his tail feathers!
It’s too late to catch Tease-o-Rama! now as its limited two night showing is over, but The Boom Boom Room is bringing a new show soon to which I would highly recommend you attend.
There was no cooling their jets when James and Maree Candish put their wheels in motion and purchased a little known workshop tucked away on Cambridge Avenue in Ashhurst. Young, ambitious and full of enthusiasm they grabbed the keys and went to work making sure that their workshop stood out. Fresh new paintwork, a thorough clean throughout, and rebranding meant that a young James had a sparkling new workshop to get his mechanical business Village Valley Automotive started on a transformational journey towards becoming the humming mechanical pit stop that it is today. Not forgetting its past James honours the history of his workshop, displaying black and white photos in the reception area of a very retro looking Astro Auto Services owned by his predecessor Roger Herd who loyally stayed on working for James for a few years.
James had made the most of an opportunity presented to him, and had not expected that a job mowing lawns as a teenager would lead to becoming a mechanic let alone owning his own workshop. He took a job at CESCO doing forklift repairs, when the opportunity arose through his lawn-mowing job, which led to him doing an apprenticeship in heavy-automotive plant and equipment diesel mechanics. Seven years working for someone else left James feeling discontent. Shown a ‘for sale’ advertisement of Astro Auto Services, a little known workshop tucked away behind trees and some old decommissioned BP fuel pumps on the main drag in Ashhurst, James and his wife Maree took the risky first step into becoming business owners. With Maree busy studying to become a midwife, their life became like a speedway blur of activity. After a ten year investment of hard graft, and with a growing young family, James finds himself in pole position for providing mechanical services in Ashhurst and surrounding areas.
James looks back at those early days with the wise eyes of a business man with years of experience under his belt, he’s faced and overcome many challenges along the way but each challenge has brought him invaluable experience. He laughs as he recounts the handwringing experience of buying a new tyre balancing machine in his first three months of business, which seemed a significant and risky venture for his young business. Since then almost every item in the workshop has been updated and/or replaced with new equipment such as diagnostic computers and wheel alignment machines, bringing equipment and service capabilities to the modern high standards needed. This has allowed Village Valley Automotive to provide the wide range of services they deliver to clientele so that they won’t have the inconvenience of having to go farther afield. James relishes the opportunity to solve problems for his customers and says with his skills and the others in his team they can always nut out a problem in the end. Being a born and bred Ashhurst resident James appreciates the needs of his community, he’s grown into the role he’s taken on and admits that relationships with customers, staff and suppliers are most important to him. He’s uncomfortable about being referred to as ‘the boss’, asserting that his team are all important cogs in his well oiled machine.
Ten years have not passed unmeasured. James and Maree set targets for themselves that helped them steer their future in the right direction and to make sure the wheels didn’t fall off along the way. Their measured approach has facilitated the growth in their service, their workshop, and their local business. A short time spent in his reception area reveals, that in this small community, Village Valley Automotive provides a friendly and familiar service to many. From WOF’s, car services, full tyre replacement, and wheel alignments to heavy equipment and machinery, James and the team have got the Ashhurst community’s mechanical needs covered.
Director: Jenna Kelly
18th October 2017
Last night I had the pleasure of attending the opening night of Chatroom, Jenna Kelly’s directorial debut at the The Dark Room. If you’ve never attended a show at this little gem of a theatre, do not be intimidated, it is a welcoming, friendly little nook with all the essentials like eft-pos and drinks – rock on up and enjoy yourself.
Anyway, Chatroom, I have to admit that I thought I might be a bit old to enjoy a teen internet chatroom drama, would I even understand their lingo? Well, I took a front row seat and felt like I was really part of the action, even though there really isn’t a lot of action. There’s a minimalist set, just the bare necessities which with good use of lighting and sound, works perfectly and does not detract from the strong, dialogue driven act.
I found myself really immersed in the chatroom conversation between these teens, all six parts delivered a compelling and believable act and expertly showed how quickly things can get out of hand under the cover of online aliases, with the group quickly splitting into a hero’s versus villains aesthetic. One actor’s delivery was perhaps slightly hampered by an overly rushed delivery of lines, hopefully just first night nerves, but the rest of their performance was well formed. Excellent characterisation by all actors brought teenage behaviour to life well, I low key had melancholy pangs for my (long) past teenage life.
Finn Davidson offered an exceptional performance as depressed teen Jim. His tender and subtle yet strong performance was awe-inspiring and just what was needed to handle the delicate issues of his character.
I commend Jenna Kelly on her directorial debut. Chatroom, is a thoroughly well delivered show for all to enjoy.
Margaret Edson's Wit
The Rare Theatre
Director : Damian Thorne
Last night I had a ‘rare’ experience indeed. Tucked away at the back of Shed 23 on Princess Street is a cheeky little rebel theatre where director Damian Thorne has produced The Rare Theatre’s debut show - Wit. With a coffee cup in hand I surveyed the charming array of chairs and cushions all neatly lined up in delightful rows in the intimate theatre space. I think that when spaces are restricted great skills of creativity are needed to endow them, sort of like condensed soup – it has a richer flavour. That was certainly my experience of The Rare Theatre, it is cosy, full of ambience, personal and embracing.
Looking at the set was sort of like staring into a lounge window, it was a very relaxing scene to gaze upon. The small set space did not stop this one woman show from delivering its full story to great effect. Actress Gael Haining-Ede as Vivian Bearing used her space well to deliver a witty yet bleak narrative about her cancer battle supported by voice recordings with Trudy Pearson as Susie Monahan, Damian Thorne as Jason Posner and Jeremy Matthews as Harvey Kelekian.
Gael’s performance was commendable as she delved deep to deliver some highly emotional scenes. Balancing the narrative with strength, courage and wit, at times I got goosebumps, while other theatre goers wiped tears from their eyes. The soothing and gentle tones of nurse Susie Monahan were a relief in amongst some tough scenes, and Jason Posner’s clinical and robotic, yet thorough bedside manner offered more light relief.
With Vivian Bearing’s occupation as an academic specialising in 17th Century English Literature taking a dominant role, this play really delivered a bunch of my favourite things. Small spaces, clever language, art, and a strong woman role model! It was a rare experience, but a delightful one.
Songs for Nobodies
Directed by Ross Gumbley
19th August 2017
Prepare yourself for an adjective heavy review! Showing restraint with words and enthusiasm will be impossible. Johanna Murray-Smith’s Songs for Nobodies starring Ali Harper leaves an impression on the soul. It is not challenging, in your face, or fast-paced, but peaceful, delightful, intimate, nurturing, funny, genuine, delicate, melancholy, and real. It’s an experience that must be felt to understand, and although we sat as a captive audience I suggest each and every one of us felt that we had Ali Harper's undivided attention. Her gentle eyes reached inside me and said ‘relax’, I trusted her as if she’d held my hand and taken me on a remarkable journey through the lives of five remarkable, as well as five unremarkable, women.
I am truly almost lost for words that could do justice to such an experience. In arts of subtlety, the crew behind this production are clearly experts. Disguised behind plain screens, a trio of musicians led by talented musical director Richard Marrett, supported Ali Harper’s incredible vocals which perfectly evoked the character she represented. Clever but understated lighting seemed to imbue the souls of past legends into Ali’s performance. Embodying such a vast range of characters Ali’s accents built the individuality of every persona and was (what’s a word with more impact than ‘impressive’) awe-inspiring.
I am so full of admiration for this woman’s performance I could actually weep, as it was, my fellow theatre-goer did wipe away a few tears of respect and admiration. The moment Ali Harper strolled on stage in a brown dress and wig and gently looked the audience in the eye was magnetic, maybe she hypnotised us... How such a drab costume and nothing more than a chair on the stage could be transcended and given so much life is a mystery.
This performance ticked all the boxes, with music, lighting, sound, and acting, so beautifully and seamlessly polished as to produce a life of its own. Such a stunning performance here in Palmerston North is a treat of immeasurable proportions. Hats off to Centrepoint for securing such a high quality performance that would be received anywhere in the world (surely) with great delight.
I’m not usually a second time viewer of anything – books, movies, shows, but I can feel Ali Harper calling me back to this unique show. Songs for Nobodies is a show that nobody should miss. It’s a full-bodied, almost spiritual experience. Thank you, Ali Harper and crew, I am full of admiration.
The Full Monty
Abbey Musical Theatre
Director Steve Jenkins
13th August 2017
The Full Monty, a full-bodied version, oh boy! The cast of Abbey Musical Theatre’s latest offering really let it all hang out as they seek to recreate the theatre version of this award winning show. More than simply gratuitous nudity though, these down on their luck, blue collar workers expose more than just a bit of flesh. As an audience we’re there for the story – isn’t that how it goes (wink, wink)...
It’s true to say that you will see the ‘full moon’ maybe sooner than expected but let me assure you that there is a storyline – one you may know of if you’ve seen the original movie or another version of the theatre show.
An industrial themed set nicely evoked the factory workers Sheffield location and sat comfortably on the stage. Gritty, grey and full of action the stage was brought to life by a talented cast complete with some tragic fashion, horrible hairdos and cringe-worthy Yorkshire accents. It all works nicely to deliver a punchy and realistic story-line with some great acting and clever, well delivered comedy.
Sam Gordon and Nick Ross bounced off each other with vigour as best mates Jerry and Dave, displaying masculine bravado as well as sharing some more tender moments. Nick Ross’s portrayal of big softie, slightly stupid, Dave was exceptional and his comedic timing always expertly delivered. Dave’s relationship with wife Georgie, was honest and tenderly played out. Katie Monaghan’s role as Georgie a brash but lovable outspoken woman brought a high energy, very enjoyable character to life. Playing the son Nathan torn between his mum Pam (Sarah Donnelly) and Dad- Jerry’s- financial and custody dispute, Isaac Gregory performed an excellent role. He was both believable and endearing, and a salve to soften the edges of some tough issues. Sarah Donnelly’s portrayal of the protective parent, ex-wife role was well delivered and carefully balanced. Jessie Feyen (as Vicki) brought some real sparkle to the scene and was a heartily enjoyable character to watch along with her husband Harold (Ben Pryor). The cast really worked so well together that it is hard to separate them from the story; they performed seamlessly and cohesively, pulling together a great show.
Insecurities, financial hardship, body issues, and stripping delivered in a high energy, high comedy format made this version of ‘The Full Monty’ really enjoyable show to watch. Director Steve Jenkins produced a risqué comedy that had the audience laughing out loud. It was a great way to spend a cold evening, and the nudity was...revealing.
Lord of the Flies
Adaptation Nigel Williams
Directed by Jeff Kingsford-Brown
A long island iced tea was a great accompaniment to carry into a disorienting set as I was dragged into what seemed like unfamiliar surroundings at Centrepoint Theatre for the opening night of ‘Lord of the Flies’. My thirteen year old daughter who’d auditioned for a part (unsuccessfully) was eager to get in and check everything out. Time to look around at what was a dramatically different set from usual was a good thing and we debated whether it was actually sand that covered the stage or amazing special effects – I was firmly of the side of sand and in the end I created a distraction allowing Miss thirteen the opportunity to get close enough to touch it, and yes it’s sand. I’ll leave the rest of the set as a surprise element (apart from revealing that it is basically a giant sandpit) because I don’t want to spoil what is a pretty neat experience of discovery.
Sci-fi style music set an eerie scene and being ignorant to the story I wasn’t sure what was coming. Miss thirteen leaned forward and whispered to me ‘you’re going to cry, I’ve just remembered some pretty brutal scenes and ugh...’ she shivers. As I braced myself and watched people file into their allocated seats amongst a surreal environment, I felt a little bit like I was at an amusement park waiting for a ride to begin, I envisioned a white knuckle experience.
Momentarily we were bathed in soothing yellow light bringing to life a scene of golden sands and blue skies, a sort of freedom and utopia for the children who survived a plane crash. But this is short-lived, as unruliness gives way to power struggles, to bullying, a battle for survival, fear and murder. There’s blood, bones, fire and an unapologetic battle of good and evil, it’s a relief to come up for air at half-time.
This mixed-genre re-enactment of ‘Lord of the Flies’ showed some stunning performances. Comfrey Sanders’ portrayal of Simon was outstanding. Miss thirteen singled her out as her favourite character. Similarly Ella Hope-Higginson’s portrayal of Jack was chillingly on point, I hated her psychopathic bitchy character in an all too real way and had to remind myself that she was clearly doing a great job and probably in real life was quite a nice person. As Roger, Nathan Mudge had me concerned that his grasp on his role came all too naturally, watch out for that guy (but again probably just great at his role). As the voice of reason and maturity Leighton Stitchbury’s – Piggy, was bullied and taunted, a role he nurtured carefully, winning the hearts of a sympathetic audience. Michael Van Echten playing lead character Ralph, was torn between the voice of reason offered by Piggy and the fear of being weak which was constantly being pointed out by Jack, it seemed an emotionally exhausting role to play. A well rehearsed ensemble cast brought solid support and authenticity to the gritty reality of their situation.
Some clever techniques brought the set to life and the aesthetic the sand provided as well as the position of the stage allowed the audience a 3D fly on the wall experience.
The strength of this story was crucial to the success of this play yet this adaptation was strong, thrilling and slightly disturbing, a combination that leaves a kiss of fear on your skin.
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