Thursday, 8 August 2019

“Coram Boy”
Nottingham Albert Hall
I deliberately didn't read anything about this play or the story, just so I'd get the full effect of this story, and boy did parts of this story hit home.
The action takes place in the eighteenth century. The benevolent Thomas Coram has recently opened a Foundling Hospital in London called the "Coram Hospital for Deserted Children".
Unscrupulous men, known as "Coram men", take advantage of the situation by promising desperate mothers to take their unwanted children to the hospital for a fee. It's what happens to those babies once the Coram men have them that is quite shocking.
The story follows a range of characters, focusing on two orphans who become best friends: Toby, saved from an African slave ship; and Aaron, the deserted son of the heir to an estate, as their lives become closely involved with a true and tragic episode of British social history.
Act One was a slow burner, building the story up and introducing the characters and their relationships.
Act Two was more explosive as we saw the characters from Act One a few years older and how their lives had progressed.
Based on Jamila Gavin’s Whitbread Children’s Book of the Year Award-winning novel, this production is for all ages because there is something for everyone, and everyone can take something away from this production.
Not only do you get a wonderful story but you get to see a mass of local actors and singers in one place, but you also get the gorgeous choir, the imposing Binns organ as well as a beautiful string quartet - The Helix Ensemble -, so this is more of an experience than just another night at the theatre. Plus the setting of the Nottingham Albert Hall adds that special aura to the evening.
The set, designed by Kevin Jenkins is rather stunning with it's outdoor feel section of the staging. The indoor setting not needing any particular scenery because you're so wrapped up in the story and the actors that you just forget anything else.
Directed by Adam Penford, a man who is not afraid of taking on something different, and this is certainly that, The many scenes segued together well to make a fluid storyline, helped by a nifty stage management crew, but at no time did you get the sense that anything was being rushed, the pace was just right.
This immersive production uses all of the Albert Hall arena space and you feel yourself almost part of the production as you're surrounded by the chorus and dancers, the chorus filling the whole place with atmosphere.
Musical Director is Alex Patterson, and you can feel the hard work this man has invested with this talented group.If you've ever attended a recital of Handel's Messiah, you'll know just how complex the harmonies are,and with sections of The Messiah incorporated within this play, you can appreciate the hard work everyone has put in.
Choreographed by Emma Lewis-Jones, again you felt like you were part of a TV series like "Victoria" with the glamour and the respectful dancing.
Sound Designed by Adam P Macready and the Lighting Design is by Will Welch, both adding to that special atmosphere
John Keys, who has an apt name for an organist, sent the shivers up my spine as soon as that magnificent instrument started. I've never heard this played before tonight but it leaves you in awe, not only because of the size of it, but the beautiful tone.
One thing that I did note from this cast was how many black actors were involved,I've said for a long time that Nottingham theatre groups don't seem to attract black actors as we don't see them in productions locally. I don't know why this is, and I've had several conversations with local actors about this. We need more black actors on Nottingham stages, and this cast proves me right. Local theatre groups are crying out for your talent.
This cast is black, white, male, female, young and old.It includes newcomers to the stage, faces I know from several productions and theatre groups locally and people who have revisited their love for the theatre again. This is what local theatre is all about. It brings people together and creates friendships between the most unlikely of people. Between them all, along with the Playhouse professionals, they have given us a very special piece of theatre.
“Coram Boy” is at the Nottingham Albert Hall until Saturday 10 August 2019

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