Angels - Review by Evie Wakefield

Written by Pauline McLynn.
Directed by Loreto Murray.
I saw this play five times, twice on the 24th January (Trent Vine Yard Youth Centre), once on the 8th March (Lakeside Arts Centre) & 9th March (Bonnington Theatre, Arnold) and 1st April (Royal & Derngate Theatre, Northampton), because my sister is a member of the Junk Shop Theatre Company who are taking part in the ‘National Theatre Connections 2014’ programme which involves a mini tour around the East Midlands.

Because I have seen the play several times, I have also seen how it has evolved, and I found this interesting, as I normally only see plays once.

The theatre company has ‘dual cast’ some of the main parts and split the company into two groups, these are known as the ‘Shoppers’ and ‘Junkies’. I feel this is slightly misleading as in reality the ‘Junkies’ are understudying the ‘Shoppers’, because the shows are split unfairly in a 4:2 ratio over 6 shows rather than a 50/50 split.

The play itself centres on a group of young people aged 13-18 who meet in a graveyard to take part in a community project. The graveyard is watched over by three stone angels (who have been blessed with the gift of movement!)
The performance begins with the angels singing ‘Someone to Watch Over Me’ (Gershwin) and this musical theme continues throughout the play, with songs including:
  • ·        There Must Be An Angel (Eurythmics)
  • ·        I Am Stretched On Your Grave (Kate Rusby)
  • ·        Thrift Shop (Macklemore) style rap
  • ·        In The Arms Of The Angel (Sarah McLaughlin)
  • ·        Underneath The Stars (Kate Rusby)

Other characters are introduced gradually:
  • ·        A boy who takes shelter in a tomb (Shawn).
  • ·        An elder sister and her brother (Gabby and Dan);
  • ·        Two (sometimes four – depending which version of the play is being performed) over excited childlike girls obsessed with social-media and matching clothes (Lola, Sue, Ella and Lily),
  • ·        A science and history obsessed nerd (Joe),
  • ·        A ‘pregnant’ teen with a bit of an attitude problem (Liz),
  • ·        The leader of the group (Tim)

During the play, the audience learns more about these teenagers’, their pasts and personalities (including underage drinking, grief and loss) and sees their friendships develop.

The artforms involved in this production were drama, comedy, music, vocals and sound effects. There were many skills on show in this actor-musician performance with instruments including:
  • ·        Bass Guitar
  • ·        Cello
  • ·        Guitar
  • ·        Flutes
  • ·        Violin
  • ·        Vocals

Members of the cast also formed the design team who created the set such as the gravestones and angels. Two of the angels are standing statues and one is laying down by a lamb to suggest a weeping angel, grieving over the loss of a child – however I have done my research and my understanding of a weeping angel is one that covers its face with its hands, but as this one is laying down it suggests a Fallen Angel otherwise known as a Devil.

I thought the tone for this play was humorous, emotional and thought-provoking and I felt some of the characters engaged well with the audience particularly Lucas Young (Joe), Aidan Blakey (Tim) and Nikki Charlesworth (Liz).
My favourite aspect of the play was the music especially the violin played by Braimah Kanneh-Mason (who also plays Shawn) and the cello played by his brother Sheku Kanneh-Mason as they moved most of the audience to tears with their beautiful rendition of ‘Underneath The Stars’ by Kate Rusby.

Unfortunately, when audience members laughed at the humorous parts of the play, some of the actors did not always wait for it to quieten down before delivering their next line so some of the meaning was lost. I also felt projection was an issue as was some actors forgetting their lines.

Having watched both versions of this play, (i.e. ‘Shoppers’ and ‘Junkies’) I felt the ‘Junkies’ were more believable as the characters.

I would recommend this for anyone who likes original theatre and for young people who are aged 13+ as there is some language that isn’t really necessary and some people might find offensive.

-Evie Wakefield