Fringe Box



Review: Cider With Rosie – Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

Published on: 25 Apr, 2013
Updated on: 25 Apr, 2013
Cider with Rosie - Charlie Hamblett

Cider with Rosie – Charlie Hamblett as Laurie

by Amy Yorston

Endless summers, beautiful countryside and a time period that retains a certain innocence; these are the images summoned up in Cider with Rosie. Set in rural Gloucestershire towards the end of the First World War the play is based on the book of the same name by Laurie Lee, a book which was also adapted into a hugely popular television film.

Cider with Rosie - Susie Blake as Mother

Cider with Rosie – ‘sparkling’ Susie Blake as Mother

The story is Laurie Lee’s own childhood and the play begins with him as a toddler lost amongst the long grass while his brothers and sisters move into their new home bossed about by Mother (a sparkling Susie Blake from Coronation Street).

To combat the issue of a cast that need to age as the play progresses all of the children are played by adult actors and the part of Laurie is split between a young Laurie (Charlie Hamblett) who actively participates in the action and an older Laurie (Richard Derrington) who narrates the unfolding events.

This is an effective device that also allows the actors to double as other characters throughout the piece. There are some fine comic turns, that manage to stay just the right side of caricature, and with minimal costume changes the transitions between scenes are swift.

Phil R Daniels and Paul Milton’s set design fills the stage and transforms from cosy cottage to country pub with ease. The middle section of set with barn doors signals change of location and the steps behind that create a balcony give a depth to the stage particularly well utilised when the family trek through fields to find the perfect spot for a picnic. The piece is also beautifully lit by Michael E Hall and it is easy to believe that the weather is hot and balmy in that aforementioned picnic scene.

The inclusion of music is a lovely touch and whilst clearly rehearsed is not too polished to take away a note of spontaneity that many productions lack.

Whilst the overarching image of this play is one of a close and happy family the script does not shy away from including the darker elements of village life including a suicide and a murder. These instances are dealt with in a fairly matter of fact manner. They lack any great emotional impact but do give the production an extra layer, avoiding pure nostalgia.

Matching the meandering tale the overall pace is also leisurely but does manage to cover a great deal of Laurie’s early life.  This is a charming production to watch but those who have read the book will appreciate far more than the casual observer.

Cider with Rosie runs at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre until Saturday April 27th. Some seats available.

Cider with Rosie Susie Blake and Nicola Sangster

Cider with Rosie Susie Blake and Nicola Sangster

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