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Bracknell Matinee Review

Ritchie of BilboMusicPicnic at Hanging Rock - The Musical
Royal Berkshire Academy
Wilde Theatre, South Hill Park, Bracknell
Matinee performance - Saturday, 25th July 2009

This was to be the second time that I would see this new musical being staged (the first being the premiere in Chichester in 2007) and I was excited! The theatre is part of the beautiful South Hill Park complex, the sun was shining on the gardens and unfortunately most people must have decided to stay outside. The theatre was only partly full so I can only hope that the young cast had bigger audiences to appreciate their hard work for their evening performances.

The stage set was minimal with a 'rock' construction situated at the back, looking slightly more like a pyramid with steps at the front and a few levels for the cast to use. Whilst the audience were seated the atmosphere got under way with the subtle sound of distant didgeridoos and cicadas. Eventually the lights dimmed and a lone Watcher edged his way to the front of the stage and fixed the audience with a staring, menacing look. Several more Watchers took position and some of the schoolgirls joined them on the rock before turning away and disappearing again. The Watchers then performed a rousing rendition of 'Dreamtime', the lead vocals shared between the tallest and shortest of the boys in an effective way. An impressive opening.

Programme CoverThis was followed by the sight of the schoolgirls giggling and teasing each other about Valentine cards as their excitement mounted at the prospect of a day out of school to visit the famous Hanging Rock. Their headmistress was to remain in school to oversee the punishment of Sara so the trip was to be led by Miss McCraw and Mlle de Potiers. The cast worked together well to create a believable group of school friends with the inevitable teasing and bickering. As this was the matinee performance we were also treated to some of the younger children joining the cast (possibly as young as 7 or 8).

The first half of the show flowed well with smooth scene changes and a nice use of a long narrow piece of fabric to play the part of the stream. We were introduced to Michael and Albert who watched the girls crossing the stream and they had a good stage rapport. The use of radio mics meant that all actors could be clearly heard. The background music and memorable songs form the backbone of the production and create a very absorbing atmosphere. As with most musical productions the standard of singing was varied but the ensemble songs worked particularly well.

After the interval we pick up the story of the hunt for the missing girls and enjoy the humourous interview scenes with the local policeman. The second half suffers from having too many scene changes which prove distracting. Again, there was a good use of strips of fabric to portray the hotel fire. I particularly enjoyed the performances of Irma, Sara, Edith, Albert and the two main singers in the Watchers. The costumes were effective and the dancing scenes in school were particularly good. The best moments were the large ensemble pieces, particularly the finale which finished the show as impressively as the opening.

Review by Ritchie Finney

Morley Enterprises

Page Last Updated: 4th March 2010

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