Edinburgh Fringe 2019
The Wizard in question, John Palmer, is a trickster who manages to rustle cattle, send people out for a screech owl which is a wild goose, rob rich houses robbery and all number of ruses and guises to stay from the squire’s clutches.
This has the feel of Olde English fairy tales with a moral ending. The script does not delve into the territory of delivering moral judgment but attempts to provide straight linear narrative. The naivete of the cast is assured and their moral values highly protected as the safe territory of foiling a villain is put into practice. As a piece of theatre, it works in a jolly hockey sticks fashion because the cast are in comfort and comfortable with the process. It’s a devised piece so the hands upon the pen are collective. You get a real sense of shared ownership which again serves as a strength.
The comic device of the removal of breeches as punishment in 2019 may seem an odd choice, given the current sexual political climate but they have enough innocence to make it work. It serves as a device to share out the part of John Palmer so that again the ensemble feel is assured. It is suitably directed for the venue and the opening of engaging with the audience as they enter feels like we have a cast well aware of who they are and what they have to deliver. It provides confidence in the piece.
That it is aware of itself is a good thing. The cast are never straying into uncomfortable areas and they have the ability to carry off the majority of the direction. Where it gets a little ropy is when there are transitions and the ensemble work in larger scale pieces. On occasion it tended to the less coordinated and sometimes there were gaps in group work through dropping focus.
The set and props are effective enough with that village fete feel that allows you to invest in the belief that this version of the green and pleasant land exists outside of Midsomer. Musically there are good songs and great performances which help too.
It’s a very pleasant hour spent in the company of very pleasant characters and that is no criticism. Oftentimes youth theatre and the theatre to be made for and by young people is looked upon for challenge, issues or topics of grave concern. That we have none of this here just reminds us that a good story told is the essence of good theatre. This manages to achieve a good rapport and yes it does make me wonder what challenging theatrical piece would stretch these able young actors but on their journey, I have little doubt that they will treasure this experience as one more step along the road.