AND who is It, a colourful Michelin Man-style Sand Fairy, who grants single wishes to the Children which last just 24 hours?
Just as King Midas found his wish that everything he touched turned to gold was not the wonderous thing he had hoped for, so the children find themselves up to their elbows in trouble, rather than surrounded in love and happiness, as their wishes are granted.
Rather like my grandmother’s Christmas puddings, that were at least a year in the making, this production would have been with us a long while back had it not been for Covid. Only one of the original cast has survived the wait, and that’s Patrick Bridgman, who plays the children’s father Uncle Paul – and, at the drop of a hat, the piano (very well) even if it is only an old upright not the Beckstein grand he would wish for. He also brings to life several of the village folk, the vicar and local Bobby among them.
Matching Patrick in numbers of characters skilfully drawn is Rose Wardlaw, who when not up to her devilment as It, makes contact with the young audience at the start of the show just like a seasoned pantomime Silly Billy character, creating a wonderfully grumpy neighbour and a distinctly disagreeable Baby when he becomes an adult for a day.
Apart from Baby, the children have just one character to create, and what a fine job they do, not only making you forget that these are adult actors playing children, but forming themselves into a band to make good use of David Ridley’s original music. In Kezrena James’s eldest girl Jane, there are shades of the strong-willed loving mother to be found in many of Edith Nesbit’s stories. Just below the surface can also be found the author’s own passionate belief in women’s rights and battles still to be (the story was first published in 1902) and still being, fought.
If most of Jane’s feelings were hidden, then the opposite can be said of the exuberant younger sister Anthea, played with just the right amount of flamboyant enthusiasm by Tika Mu’Tamir. In just over ten years’ time you could imagine Joseph Tweedale’s older brother Cyril, and Ellie Showering’s younger sibling Robert, still eaten out with chauvinism, blowing a whistle and charging over the top to death or glory in the First World War.
Under the watchful gaze of director Nel Crouch, this tight-knit team will bring a great deal of fun and comedy to many, and provide food for thought for many others between now and Sunday 15th January, when it finishes its run in the Egg.
Photographs by Paul Blakemore