The Teacup Poisoner, Storm on the Lawn at Prior Park, Bath

The Teacup Poisoner - Georgina Littlewood as Molly Young, Tom Davies as Graham Young - Photo credit Nick SpratlingTHERE really WAS a storm on the lawn for the final production at Prior Park after 18 seasons – the opening night was rained off!

But the 36 young performers were ready to challenge the weather gods on Thursday, giving a powerful performance of Mark Powell and Ben Occhipinti’s new musical, The Teacup Poisoner.

Based on the true story of Graham Young, it’s about a misfit teenager whose obsession with chemicals and poisoners meant he could feed toxic substances to his family and the taunters from school who might have been his friends.

In real life, he was sent to Broadmoor after his first murders, freed supposedly cured, and then taken on by a factory working with chemicals, whose managers didn’t know his background. What happened?  Yes, you guessed.

Writer Mark Powell has conflated the story, presenting a kaleidoscopic version of the facts, allowing his cast to play multiple characters, and with courtroom scenes and witness statements woven throughout the narrative.

Ben Occhipinti, best known as a theatre and opera director, composed music which nods to (simplified) Sondheim – he describes the show as Sweeney Todd for Teenagers. The big choruses are punctuated by Graham Young’s own solos, none more chilling than the final song that brings the lights down.

Tom Neill as Mr Hughes -This is an ensemble piece, in which every participant is given the chance to contribute, but of course the central role is the pivot, and the extraordinary talents of 16 year old Tom Davies from Frome make the anti-hero a terrifyingly convincing and murderous victim as well as a villain without a conscience.

role modelIt is directed by Lee Lyford, who knows all about the potential of the Ball Court at Prior Park, and who moves the ghostly murderers from the pages of Graham’s favourite books in among the school pupils, the factory workers (particularly well choreographed), the family and the legal community with skill.

Tea trolleylaura travisPerhaps the positioning of the three musicians, under a large protective awning centre stage, was a distraction, but summer weather is summer weather.

Storm on the Lawn has been 18 summers at Prior Park, and this is the final production, continuing until Sunday. During that time, large scale drama summer schools have popped up all around the country, some run by commercial companies set up for the purpose.

The tea partyBath’s Storm has been a huge success, sending some of its most talented participants on to a professional career on (and off) stages, with an experience on their CVs and in their hearts that they will never forget.

Let’s see what the Theatre Royal’s egg serves up for summer 2016 for the young performers of the region, and, if it’s alfresco, start petitioning those weather gods.


For more details of the remainder of the run of Storm 2015, visit the website, or telephone 01225 448844.

Photographs by Nick Spratling show Tom Davies as Graham Young,  Georgina Littlewood as Molly Young , Laura Travis as May Bartlett and Tom Neill as Mr Hughes,  with the ensemble, in The Teacup Poisoner

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