History brought to life

scene from kidnapped

Kidnapped

B2 Belgrade Theatre, Coventry

****

ROBERT Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped is such a well-known tale and yet in the hands of Sell a Door Theatre company it is brought alive with a really dynamic approach that involves a great and versatile set, music, dance and memorable acting.

A company of five actors provide all of the parts topped off with some oversized puppets that deserved to be developed more in the story-telling.

An older David Balfour (Jamie Laird) tells the story of his 17-year-old self (Stewart McCheyne), kidnapped and sold into slavery for a paltry sum and sent to the Carolinas by his wicked and jealous uncle (Christopher Anderton) to whom he had turned after his father’s death.

His adventures, as he raised himself up from captive slave to cabin boy, after the murder of his only friend on board ship Ransom (Lesley Cook), befriending outlaw Alan Breck (Simon Weir) on the way.

Historically the scene is complex and set against the bewildering Jacobite rebellions when the toast ‘to the King across the water’ could get you stamped out like an ant. The sense of danger and suspicion is well-handled and heightened by Psycho-style Hitchcockian violin!

The clever use of folksong, particularly ‘Charlie is my darling’ which provides a leitmotif throughout and also sets the scene historically. Alan Breck has a habit of rewarding his supporters by writing a quick folksong for them and this in itself shows that Bonny Prince Charlie had colossal support in the Highlands. The ongoing clan warfare which set family against family and particularly against the lowland Campbells added an extra dimension to both young Davey’s adventures and the drama.

Some of the younger members of the audience – and it was probably 25 per cent eight to 12 years old – might have found the Scottish accents a bit bewildering so maybe a course of BBC Scotland before you go could help.

I was sitting in the front row which is a difficult place to get a full view but even here the fight scenes were thoroughly believable. A word for the set – and it would be ‘wonderful’. In a small space the set, two great curving walls, took seconds to turn from a full-rigged ship to a castle to a bar and a homely fireside.

As a half-term treat, this production adapted by Ivan Wilkinson and directed by Anna Fox,  offers a great lesson in history, a backdrop to the Scottish independence movement and an entertaining story that stands on its own merits. To 31-05-14

Jane Howard 

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