Malory Towers

4
Touring show seen in Bristol.
By Paula - 26th Jul 2019

With Malory Towers, Emma Rice has managed to take the ordinary – Enid Blyton's post war tales of boarding school life in Cornwall – and turn it into something quite Extra-ordinary!

With a diverse and vibrant cast, she brings a delicious rebelliousness to the classrooms and dormitories of the fabled school on the edge of a cliff. Based on the series, but most reference to First Form at Malory Towers this musical brings to life the struggles and friendships among a group of girls starting their first year away from home. Trying to find their feet among strangers and create a family to replace those they have recently left at home.

Peppered with song and dance there is a definite nod to cabaret (like Rice's recent eponymous production Wise Children) but the period setting, framed with modern day twist, keeps the plot firmly centred around girlhood with all its angst and passions.

Older audience members who were fans of Blyton's books in their youth will feel the frisson of excitement hearing familiar names – Darrell Rivers, Sally Hope and Alicia Johns - and will enjoy their playful interpretation by this talented cast.

The energetic cast also reflects 21st century social difference and diversity; they clearly relish every moment on stage. Izuka Hoyke as Darrell Rivers and Renee Lamb as Alicia Johns are both actors of colour; Francesca Mills, who has dwarfism, is compelling as Sally Hope. While Vinnie Heaven, a non-binary trans performer, arrives in the dorm as horse mad Bill. Rose Shalloo as Mary Lou gives an appealing embodiment of anxiety and gaucheness. There is also no doubting the strength of vocal talent and musician ship among the cast.

Set by Lez Brotherston includes floor boards which lift to create a swimming pool and a two tiered mezzanine effect stage to divide the classroom and dormitory – making for some seamless physicality across the levels. It's combined with original use of the backdrop for projection (echoes of the bus scene in Wise Children) to create a coastal setting, a diving board, galloping horses and a dangerous thunder storm which leaves the audience hanging at the close of the first act.

Playing in Bristol until 18th August this is a must see production for summer – whether you loved the books or have yet to discover them, Rice’s interpretation will delight and whet your appetite for what comes next.

Paula Luke


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