Monday, 21 November 2016

946 The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips (Bristol Old Vic)

Sitting down in the audience waiting for 946 The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips to begin, I was totally unprepared for what greeted me. As I chatted with my sister, I noticed a man trying to climb over the edge of the divider that separated the gallary from the pit. He then proceeded to ask those in the back row of the pits to stand up so he could do some last minute cleaning. I initially completely fell for it, and it wasn't until, about 5 minutes later, that I realised that this was, in actual fact, the beginning of the show. These 'cleaners', were part of the performance. As the lights faded, and the actors had all eventually made it to the stage, I prepared myself for a very enjoyable performance.

The story of Adolphus Tips, written by Michael Morpurgo, and adapted by Emma Rice for theatre, is both hilarious and tragic. Following the story of Lily Tregeneza, an energetic girl living in the countryside of England during world war II. From the arrival of the evacuees, to them departing again, the life of Lily Tregeneza is full of ups and downs. Played by Katy Owen, I was amazed by how springy and childlike she acted without coming across as silly or over dramatic. Katy bounded across the stage bringing the character of Lily to life, spreading her huge smile and childlike decisiveness. Sharing her small worries, that seemed enormous, only finally put into context when the horrors of the war touched her personally.

One of the things I loved most about 946 The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips was the incredible singing, in-particular Nandi Bhebhe who played 'Harry', an american soldier and friend of Adi. The music was both haunting and tragic at points, reflecting the turmoil and horrors of a war that robbed so many people, but also the small joys and victories experienced by those who remained at home, as well as the final victory of the war's conclusion.

I think the finale to the play summed the whole experience up for me. The whole cast came on stage, and encouraged the audience to stand before teaching us all a few simple clapping patterns. Then as an entire theatre we stood on our feet and began to sing along and 'dance' with the performers, something that just made me laugh even harder than before. I certainly left the theatre smiling, marvelling at how well the production highlighted emotions of grief, whilst keeping the bouncy perspective of the child who narrates it.

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