Thursday, 18 July 2019

Magical realism comes to Stonor Valley

Magical realism comes to Stonor Valley

Acorn Music Theatre Company presents The Green Man and Other Fables | White Pond Farm, Stonor | June 25 to 27

WHAT better setting for this latest production by the ever amazing Acorn Music Theatre Company than a sunlit evening in the Stonor Valley?

Acorn entranced audiences yet again with their interpretation of The Green Man and Other Fables.

It all happened in the ancient tithe barn of White Pond Farm at Stonor, by kind permission of the Stracey family — the perfect, cobwebby setting for this production of magic realism.

The backbone of the story, briefly, sees a grumpy old king dispatch all his knights — mounted on superbly imagined horses — on an impossible mission to find the grail, the elixir of life.

The cast took us with them on their various quests: we experienced the dangers, the hurdles they faced from encounters with the Raven Queen, her scary ravens flapping around the audience, dragons, wolves and selkies — all creatures of myth and fable brought to life by this young cast.

The selkies ensured that I shall never swim in the sea again for fear of being tempted into their watery underworld.

It seems invidious in such an ensemble performance to pick out any individuals, but mention must be made of Paris Ferguson for his inimitable, hugely funny and very able character acting and of his pig, played very piggily by Caitlin Brown.

One of the funniest scenes was the perfect spoof enactment of a group therapy session — each assuring the others that this was a safe space in which to share their troubles.

Oh yeah, where is there ever a safe space to admit to burning witches?

The reimagined scenes from the familiar tale of Red Riding Hood were unnerving and disturbing, with a slimy, sneaky wolf played by Seamus Bringmann.

Then there were the Acorn Troubadours, more than ably led this year by the talented songwriter Megan Henwood, of folk music fame.

The singing and playing by Louis Rees and Eleanor Whittle shows great promise. It is so very typical of the ethos of Acorn — this encouragement of young talent, always welcoming newcomers to the stage.

The music and the atmosphere was intensified by Acorn mum Nikki Niehuzinska playing her huge gong so gently, so scarily, so threateningly.

Acorn breeds huge loyalty amongst its cast — most stay for many of their young years, some even return to help once they have grown up into their own oak trees.

This year, notable returnees were Zoe Gilbert and Max Porter — both founding members of Acorn — whose texts inspired Acorn members while developing their own script for this production.

Such good fortune, such loyalty, such generosity, for both Zoe and Max have recently published their own novels, Folk and Grief is the Thing with Feathers respectively.

How director Gail Rosier manages the rabble of youngsters and brings out such uninhibited performances is a mystery but she does so and without quashing one ounce of their enthusiasm.

The body language, the humour, the choreography of this production was superb and complicated.

It was a privilege to be among the audience and it is a privilege for these young people of Henley to be part of such a brilliant organisation the Acorn Music Theatre Company.

Long may it flourish.

Bridget Fraser

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