Saturday, 15 December 2018

If Jesus’s was The Greatest Story Ever Told, this one’s Eden better

IT’S rare to find an amateur production with quite as much professionalism as Reading Operatic Society’s

IT’S rare to find an amateur production with quite as much professionalism as Reading Operatic Society’s

Children of Eden

If it’s true that the first night’s performance is generally the worst, with its unforeseen technical hitches and lack of polish, then I suspect upcoming audiences are in for a real treat!

Children of Eden is, in essence, a chronicle of Adam and Eve through to Noah’s Ark — although perhaps not quite how you were taught it in school.

In this version, it’s easy to forget you’re witnessing the tale of original sin, as you’re so preoccupied with the dancing snakes, or Adam’s sensational singing.

There are so many highlights of this delightful musical that I don’t really feel I can do it justice without rambling on well beyond my word limit — but I’ll whizz through a few.

For one, it’s a spectacle. With an array of costumes, all bursting with as much colour as the dynamic lighting, you’re never short of something to look at.

Unusually for the small theatre, the show also boasts a live band, which adds another level of enticement and atmosphere.

The dance numbers are imaginative and energetic, all executed meticulously, and beautifully choreographed by Sally-Anne Coleman to fit the mood of each song. And speaking of Sally-Anne, who also directed, her creativity radiates throughout the musical. From a sequence lit only by handheld lights for the opening, to the silhouetted “animals” of the garden, her inventive staging made this archaic story exciting.

Of course, anyone who’s already seen it could tell you the production’s main selling point instantly. In fact, I’m willing to bet that every audience member walked away thinking the same thing — and that’s how breath-taking the singing was.

The whole company had their harmonies en pointe, even when the band stopped playing. I’m not being kind — I could’ve been fooled into thinking some of these actors are professionals.

To name a couple of standouts: wonderful Tom Gingell as Adam, Katie Thrussell as Eve (only the understudy, so I daren’t think what the regular actress is like), and a startlingly talented for his age Ben Tait as Cain.

However, the two show-stealers were undoubtedly William Branston as Father, and Charley Woodward as Mama Noah. Branston’s notes were crisp and clear, channelling the power of the character. And Woodward? She has so much soul in her voice that I had goosebumps. If you’re lucky enough to hear her, you’ll understand.

Mind you, the performance is by no means perfect. The second act lost momentum; some of the acting was a bit too rigid; the set was far from worthy of a West End stage.

But to miss it would be to miss one of the best amateur productions the Kenton has seen in a while.

So if you’re short of entertainment this weekend, ditch the TV, and brush up on your Bible knowledge with the

Children of Eden

Until Saturday.

Review: Amy Nicholas

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