Monday, 8 February 2016

Review - This Was The World And I Was King at the Jack Studio Theatre, Brockley Road


MUSIC, puppets, song and a wonderful and inventive script are the key ingredients for a delightful, yet emotionally charged show now on at the Jack Studio Theatre.
This Was The World And I Was King is full of enchantment from the off. It features the story of three children, Evelyn (Laura Trundle), Alexander (Lewis Clarke) and Lily (Laura Hannawin) who are sent away with their mother (Lucy Peacock) to live at their uncle's farmhouse during the First World War.
Their father (Steve McCourt) is away fighting on the Western Front and he sends regular letters full of stories. The children spend their time playing endless games, some of which are based on their father's tales.
Through these stories and games we see their ingenuity, creativity and imagination as well as their boundless energy, naive innocence and happiness, as well as how far they are protected by their mother and uncle from the horrors of war.
However, when their father is wounded and has to return home it is not the happy homecoming his children had hoped for.
Indeed it forces Alexander, aged only 16, to volunteer for his country in a bid to emulate his father and make his family proud.
Throughout the piece there are some wonderful moments such as when King Thomas the Bear transforms into a puppet boy - though of course he keeps his bear's heart - and the wonderful way the scenes flow beautifully from one to the next with the cast using the props of crates, suitcases, sheets, shawls and rugs.
It is all set to a fabulous and captivating soundtrack of live music performed and written by members of the cast and creative team, all of whom are excellent.
But what makes this story so engaging is the clever way we see their childhood played out next to scenes in which Evelyn reminisces about their times at the farmhouse with housekeeper Elizabeth.
Although it's never explicitly said what happened to Lily the story is more about her and told through her eyes and Evelyn constantly refers to her in the past tense, making the ending full of emotion and poignancy.
Ultimately it is a great advert for traditional storytelling and shows the younger members of the audience how kids entertained themselves before iPads, Kindles and other electronic devices.

This Was the World And I Was King is on at the Jack Studio Theatre, Brockley Road, until February 20. Tickets cost £14. Visit or call the box office on 0333 666 3366.

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