At the Stahl: A Fairy Tale Reimagined in a Political Drama

Third and Fourth Form productions are always something of a treat at Oundle. They are a great indication of the depth and range of dramatic talent coming through the school and The Red Red Shoes, a lyrical and modern take of the similarly titled Hans Christian Anderson tale was no exception. This moving piece of theatre kept the basic idea of the original wistful fairy tale but placed it against the backdrop of a war-torn country where people are identified by their cultural heritage and where mistrust and resentment have existed for generations.

The ensemble cast never left the stage, but instead took us from the heart of a distant village, to the mountain forests, from a stark hospital room, to the frenzied chaos of a refugee camp. They were not only responsible for taking us from location to location, but also from atmosphere to atmosphere. They produced sound effects from all the objects around them including gravel traps, rain-sticks and a microphone. Plastic bags created the sound of devastating fires, destroying homes and metal sheeting became the distant, chilling sound of guns and bombs.

This was theatre beautifully choreographed with elements taken from ballet and from folk dances, performed by the cast with remarkable care, maturity and dynamism. Isabel Macintosh (K) excelled as Franvera, the young child at the heart of the story, but it was the relationships she created with those around her which truly moved the audience. The enigmatic Doctor, beautifully played by Henry Gardiner (StA) created enormous sympathy for this refugee child with her visions of the past. Charlie Dickinson (L) successfully negotiated both a much older character and a particularly tricky beard, resisting cliche or parody to create a rather chilling old soldier hell-bent on perpetuating the cycle of violence. Tara Boyle’s (L) old Woman brought a genuine sense of world-weary wisdom whilst Isobel Prothero (N) brought real emotion to the climax of the play in both her reunion with, and ultimate loss of her daughter.

The cast of the play clearly felt the anti-war message of the play. and director Naomi Jones should be very proud of this moving and powerful production. It is unusual in a cast so young to have such drive and such physical and emotional control over the material.

M Burlington

(photo credits: Mike Kwasniak)