Saturday 8 June 2013

The Young Visiters - Rough Haired Pointer @ The Hen and Chickens Theatre

It's not every day you see a show with a script written by a nine year old.  This is both a blessing and a curse of The Young Visiters written in 1890 by Daisy Ashford, here presented by new theatre company Rough Haired Pointer.

Director Mary Franklin takes us on a journey as we follow the Alan Partridge-esque Mr Salteena (Tom Richards) and his friend Ethel (Marianne Chase) on their rise to high society in late-Victorian England. It's a rather simple and silly tale, performed with childlike enthusiasm by the cast.  Yet as the tale rolls along through its various twists and turns, it eventually becomes apparent this is no fable or morality tale but simply shallow, comedic fun.

The Young Visiters is undoubtedly a hilarious piece, with every element of the production turned to comedy - from the cartoonish performances, to the low budget set and numerous anachronisms between the script, the props and the costumes (though some are likely through financial constrictions rather than choice).  There are also some neat directorial touches, such as audience interaction, a rain scene that cleverly employs umbrellas and ticker tape, and Sophie Crawford's eloquent narrator flitting in and out of the drama to keep proceedings under control.

Sadly, it's control that is lacking in the rest of the cast. The actors are having a lot of fun - perhaps too much fun - as the core script gets lost (I suspect) in a wave of ad-libbing.  As a result, the performance has a chaotic feel that is in danger of teetering into unprofessionalism.  The comic turns of Andrew Brock and Leo Marcus Wan as a variety of different characters frequently had the audience in stitches, overshadowing any attempts at subtlety.

The Young Visiters is an innocent play performed with a knowing wink.  It may be written by a child, but this production is rife with adult humour, its performances in need of a little reining in to really allow the storytelling to shine through.


Watch: The Young Visiters is performed at the Hen and Chickens Theatre, Islington until 15th June.