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Review: Changeling Theatre launch their 2019 summer tour with The Winter's Tale in Maidstone

Shakespeare may not have envisaged staging his play The Winter's Tale in 32C heat.

And as the audience at the opening weekend of the Changeling Theatre's summer tour slapped on their suncream and fanned themselves with their sunhats, the players must've wondered quite what they'd signed themselves up for.

Last year's tour also started in baking temperatures, but their costumes did not call for thick army jumpers, jackets and layers and layers of crocheted blankets.

The Changeling Theatre are off on tour
The Changeling Theatre are off on tour

But this didn't stop the young and enthusiastic cast giving it their all as the temperature soared.

They still leapt and danced around, packing each scene with energy and flourishes, as well as little asides and ad libs where they could.

One of Shakespeare's lesser known plays, The Winter’s Tale is a fairy story set in Sicily and Bohemia. Leontes has everything a man could want, but the bitter jealousy he harbours inside drives him to destroy all he holds dear. Years later, in a distant country, a journey begins that may heal his pain and reunite his family.

The performance was like two different plays, with designer Robin Soutar taking the opportunity of the Bohemian setting in the second half to indulge in some out-there colourful costumes, while choreographer Julia Cave and artistic director Rob Forknall gave their young cast a chance to revel in some Abba to the delight of all.

The Changeling Theatre in their colourful costumes Picture: Nicholas Dawkes
The Changeling Theatre in their colourful costumes Picture: Nicholas Dawkes

Leontes, played by Scott Ellis, felt like the rock the production was built on, while riveting, strong support came from Rhianna McGreevy as Paulina, Jess Nesling as his queen, Hermione, and Beth Mullen.

As a lesser known play, I did not know how it was to end, and I'm pleased to say, it did not disappoint. It should give you a warm feeling - and that's nothing to do with the heatwave.

Worthy of mention were both apprentices - Layomi Coker, who showed confidence and a stunning voice - and Tegan Steward who, despite joining the cast slightly later after the previous apprentice had to pull out, took on the roles of Leontes' son and daughter admirably.

The Changeling Theatre's apprentice Layomi Coker
The Changeling Theatre's apprentice Layomi Coker

As always with the company's productions, there was attention to detail, music, perfect comic timing and some extra laughs - look out for someone "needing a hand".

The tour heads to parks, castles, beaches and gardens across the country, and the afternoon I saw was in the idyllic spot at Boughton Monchelsea Place, with its sweeping views. I wonder whether the setting sways me - would it be possible to not enjoy a performance, in such an amazing spot?

The Changeling Theatre's The Winter's Tale
The Changeling Theatre's The Winter's Tale

But that is not to take anything away from the production and the performers. Yet again, they have, in their own quirky yet professional style, pulled off a Changeling triumph. As Abba would say: take a chance on them this summer. Next year it's their 20th and they are promising a surprise!

DETAILS

The Changeling Theatre’s tour which includes a second show, musical comedy Nell Gwynn by Jessica Swale. runs until Sunday, August 18. To book tickets go to changeling-theatre.com

Tickets for the Allington Castle show on Saturday, July 27, are also available at hokh.org/events

Read more: All the latest stage news across Kent

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