“Having seen Offbeat’s last production The Raven (“The Killing of Poe” – Ed), which was quite dark with lots of obscure literary references, I wondered just how Barbara Hockley would turn her wordsmith mastery to a show suitable for children of all ages.
I need not have worried for I still had a smile on my face as I walked and chatted to other happy members of the audience, making our way past the huge yellow skip and up the lane to the car park. Even the huge skip and the tree lined, narrow lane added themselves to the magic of Barbara’s immersive theatre, set within the walls of the soon to be converted St Richards school.
Having been shown in to The Inn, marvelling at what a super job they had made of the ticket sales area and bar, we soon became willing participants in the play as the characters spun their story around us. Gold coins handed out with our tickets had to be paid to the storyteller before we were ushered through corridors transformed into a magical forest; our portal into the fertile imagination of the director and cast. Clues had been given for which we would need to be on the look out, with other fairy stories being woven together. Soon I was swept along with the fun and almost forgot that there wasn’t actually a fairy tale called the Frog King.
It is hard to single out any of the cast for a special mention as each played their part with great surety and the lightness of touch needed to bring Barbara’s humour and pathos alive. Space being limited, my apologies that I cannot mention them all. However, Hugh Farey, our ’Boz’ has taken on many leading roles but this might have been my favourite as he eased between personas with the delicate nuance needed in this close-up, immersive atmosphere. Mark Cox as Bardman engaged us with his pompous, authoritarian official interpreter of stories, who soon becomes confused as to his sanity and gender. Caitlin Cox stomped her way in and out of each scene as the stroppy princess who pays the price for inviting the frog into the story. She also pulled at our heartstrings as she wandered off alone and lonely only to return in the final scene to claim her right to the kingdom as the Frog King’s next in line. So no frog prince to kiss in this mixed and muddled up tale.
I would love to see Barbara Hockley bring her talent to a wider audience and marvel at her team’s dedication, bringing a production of this scale and quality to such a limited audience. Bromyard’s Conquest or Hereford’s Courtyard would be the better for showing off their skills.
Here is my recommendation. If you missed this one. Don’t miss the next!”