JUST SO KIPLING

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Review by Paul Shave, July 2016

Newbury Dramatic Society continue their tradition of taking an informative show about an historical character (last year, Dickens) to villages in aid of local charities with this year’s production of Just So Kipling, in Hungerford, Kingsclere and Lambourn supporting HADCAF, Kingsclere Library and Riding for the Disabled.

On a simple set, strewn with clothing changes and other props, the cast of five covered the whole of Kipling’s life in an hour, with narrative and extracts from his poems and books (and refreshments to follow!). Devised and directed by Ann Davidson, it started with The Glory of the Garden, moving from his childhood in Bombay to Lahore at 16 after schooling in England. He travelled to America and South Africa, ending up in England in 1896. Although highly regarded as a writer and poet (he was the youngest recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature), he was a product of the Victorian age and his dedication to Empire was controversial – Orwell described him as a ‘jingo imperialist’.

All five actors took on many roles but the main part of Kipling was played by Trevor Pitman with authority and gravitas, allowing a little levity on the road to Mandalay. Ruth Wheeler played his wife Carrie with dignity but, like his son (Robert Miles), subservient to Kipling’s personality. Ceri Lawrence, Andrew Smith and Robert Miles played a variety of humans and animals, all well differentiated and convincingly performed. The production was excellently choreographed and made good use of the stage. When the actors weren’t performing they stood at the sides with their backs to us and unobtrusively changed their costumes. Some of the text was read from scripts; I didn’t find this distracting but on occasion it caused a break in the pace when there were scene changes. The sound was good – appropriate and not overpowering – but the lighting sometimes left some of the cast in darkness.

 

I was hugely impressed with this production. Ann Davidson has come up with a piece that is absorbing, instructive and entertaining, finely performed by five very good actors. Ann told me that she’s thinking of Larkin About for next year’s production. Don’t miss it.

Click for original article on Newbury Theatre Wesbite