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Verdict: Death, life, continuance
Brighton - Brighton Little Theatre - 9-13 May 06 - 19:45 (22:10)
Humble Boy is 3 hours of light philosophical drama in 2 acts with 20 minute interval, from a cast of 6 (3M, 3F).
Mr Humble, beekeeper, is dead. Flora Humble, his widow, has had an affair with retired coach-operator George Pye for years and now contemplates marriage (Humble-Pye). Felix Humble, loyal son to his father, resents them both. Rosie Pye, George's daughter, rekindles her affair with Felix. Gardener Jim works the soil in the background; family friend Mercy Lott twitters anxiously, as relationship problems brew to boiling.
Steven Adams delivers Felix Humble as a complex figure - a man unable easily to relate to people, immersed in his search as a research physicist for a theory to link everything. His Felix is tall, handsome, with fine voice and nervous stutter - increasing with the stress his mother brings. Ann Atkins's Mercy Lott is a piece of farcical chararacter writing in an otherwise nearly-real script, delivered with high-camp brio. Harry Atkinson's George Pye oozes oil, slime, chippiness, and barely-contained violence. Tess Gill delivers Rosie Pye as a well of fecundity - a striking force of nature. Carol Hatton presents a complex Flora Humble - cleverly articulating often conflicting forces of distress, resentment, confidence and insecurity. Gerry Wicks does stolid, solid, man-of-the-earth Jim with an ethereal glow, sometimes literally.
The essence of Humble Boy is pagan - the elements of death, birth, growth, late-flowering, deterioration, the irrelevance of love. Characters relate to primal forces, reflected in their names: Felix and Felicity, both meaning happy; Flora, flowers; Rosie; Mercy. Flora is the ageing, rotting woman; George her male equivalent. Felix is trapped in childhood, waiting for release. Two characters may symbolise the life force: Rosie as young mother, birth; Jim as continuity of creation and rebirth (with perhaps a cheeky nod to Christianity - Christ mistaken for the gardener after his resurrection).
The strong and intriguing script includes a gentle and exact ending, with superb handling of the two-act structure. There are intriguing and unexpected revelations, which open up the directions of the story. It's presented by a strong cast, from which it seems invidious to single out a performance. But that is by Tess Gill as Rosie. From the moment she breezes onto the stage, there's a breath of life present, and not just from the script. It's a delightful performance, blessed with joyful charisma.
Lighting design by Roy Edinburgh, and sound design by Richard Lindfield create apt moods for the play's progress; with operation of both by Jessica Scaife. Costumes, by Margaret Skeet, are superb - each characterisation is subtly deepened by carefully appropriate choice and design of clothing.
Writer Charlotte Jones presents a play that's huge in its themes, needing a director able to discipline them - the alternative being an emotional blancmange. Mike Wells grasps the lot, and gets exact performances from each of the cast. Stage manager Helen Samways keeps the traffic on and off stage moving elegantly - and the complicated stage looking good. Set designer, constructor, and painter Cordelia Haynes creates a quiet masterpiece of visual delight.
Cast Credits: (alpha order): Steven Adams - Felix Humble. Ann Atkins - Mercy Lott. Harry Atkinson - George Pye. Tess Gill - Rosie Pye. Carol Hatton - Flora Humble. Gerry Wicks - Jim.
Company Credits: Writer - Charlotte Jones. Director - Mike Wells. Stage Manager - Helen Samways. Set Designer, Constructor, Painter - Cordelia Haynes. Lighting Designer - Roy Edinburgh. Sound Designer - Richard Lindfield. Lighting & Sound Operator - Jessica Scaife. Costumes - Margaret Skeet. Thanks to - South Downs Nurseries, Felicity Clements, Richard Harries. Brighton Little Theatre: Secretary - Leigh Ward. Chair - Matthew Williamson. Treasurer - David Peters. Associate Members' Officer - Dawn Smithers. Company - Brighton Little Theatre.
reviewed Thursday 11 May 06 / Brighton Little Theatre
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