FCT to celebrate 30 years

Edinburgh Evening News article calling on all old FCT cast members to celebrate 30 years of FCT.

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Published 27/01/2009, Edinburgh Evening News.

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Mark Gorman’s Review of Jekyll & Hyde

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It’s been a crazy day.

Golf, driving lessons (more later) and at the end of it the latest FCT festival Show. Their 29th and the first with no hand of my dad involved.

The Director, Claire Stewart, speculated in her programme notes that parts of it would have given him ‘the tingles’ and there can be no doubt that she called that one right.

This show is actually so impressive that it makes you step back and re-evaluate this theatre company. But please don’t expect what follows to be unchallenging.

FCT has staged 58 productions and it’s fair to say they’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly with a very strong leaning to the former. But, folks, The Lords of Creation? Everyone screws up sometime.

This show though? This was FCT on steroids.

A Cockerney setting.

FCT loves Cockerney – great excuse to do ‘accents’

However, it had a bleakness that was, unusually for FCT, not offset by a few gags and a singalonga happy chappy come on it’s not all that bad, number. (Doin’ the Lambeth Walk and all that.)

No, this was tragi-comedy without the laughs.

This was bleak.

But, hey, was Robbie LS looking for laughs?

No.

He wrote a very focussed morality tale about good v evil in which (of course) good wins – well, the Victorians were a bit predictable.

Technically this was the most accomplished show in FCT history (perhaps Oh, What a Lovely War had more technical innovation but the lighting, sound and set in this show were awesome.) I sat in the back row and heard every word.

The choreography, I don’t know if you’d call it that, movement might be a better word, (see previous reference to lack of Lambeth Walks) was so considered and impactful as to punch you.

Aggressive, in your face.

Magic.

Low, moody eyelines prevailed and worked fantastically . At one stage the chorus lined the auditorium, turning and looking pointedly and uneasing the audience. I loved that.

The costumes were probably the best I’d ever seen, so themed, by colour especially and such high quality. They contributed greatly to the sense of time.

The band? How insulting to call them a band. This was an orchestra. Their role in this performance was fundamental and flawless. At times I thought it must be a CD playing, it was so flawless. And boy, you guys owe a debt of gratitude to your sound man for mixing it all so brilliantly!

So, turning to the show itself. I’ll caveat the rest of my views with a question, a challenge I suppose, and one that I wasn’t alone in asking!

Was this show ‘on-brand’ for FCT?

At the interval I thought not. Even after it, and despite how good it was, I’m still asking myself that.

As Thom Dibdin said in his review in The Edinburgh Evening News the material causes problems for a Youth production, and I agree with him.

In the first act, at least, it seemed to me that it had been a little too unremitting in its gloom and too heavy on reliance upon the principals’ performances. The second act (nearly) changed my mind. Mainly because the highlight of the show ‘Murder Murder” opened the act, drew your breathe away and established the chorus as a vital part of the energy of the show. And the chorus is fundamentally what FCT has always been about. I’d be sad to see that go.

FCT need never consider a festival production of Waiting for Godot. (musical or otherwise.)

It was a small cast by FCT standards – only 33 – and I wondered, for a while, if less was really more, but the second act reassured me.

All of this sounds a bit negative, but the experience was far from negative. Because, cutting to the chase, this was singularly the most impressive FCT performance I have ever seen.

I’ll have to revert to superlatives now. Hannah Scott was awesome, just collosal in her performance as the hooker with a heart, Lucy, she very nearly stole the show.

But let’s be honest, how could she? She was supporting Matthew Smith who played both Jeckyll and Hyde with a maturity that has to defy his age. (I have little doubt that he will fulfill his ambition of singing on the West End because he is a major talent.) It so happens I also saw him in lighter mode at the Holy Cross Players Panto and he was a hoot.

Every single principal was on the nail, but ultimately it comes down to direction and I have to say Claire Stewart has once again performed a PB.

Whatever your views of the script/libretto (and in our group they were mixed) what Claire Stewart drew out of this group was simply brilliant. “Murder Murder” was one of the finest moments I have ever experienced in a theatre.

As a whole I feel the show is flawed. It’s a bit too bleak, and lacks light and shade during a lot of the, quite long, first half storytelling stage but every opportunity to squeeze a bit of interest out of it Claire Stewart took.

Overall verdict? Outstanding

Edinburgh Evening News Drama Award for Best Musical 2008

 

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Homegrown stars clinch Evening News drama awards

Published Date: 22 August 2008
By LIAM RUDDEN and MARK McLAUGHLIN

TWO of the Capital’s best known amateur theatre companies were celebrating yesterday after winning Evening News Drama Awards for Best Musical and Best Play, on the 2008 Fringe.

Members of Forth Children’s Theatre were left shocked and elated when, in their 30th anniversary year, they were presented with the inaugural Evening News Drama Award for Best Musical by BBC I’d Do Anything star, Niamh Perry, for their production of Jekyll and Hyde.

Director Claire Stewart said: “This play has been a total challenge for the kids as we’re used to doing bright, happy-clappy musical numbers, but this year we wanted to explore something more dark.”

Niamh said: “Amateur dramatics is where most of us start out. I was about 12 when I did my first amateur shows with the McMasters Stage School and Music Theatre for Youth.

“It’s my first time at the Festival and I’ve seen a whole range of shows but I honestly couldn’t tell you which were amateur and which were professional. They were all so good.”

Edinburgh Theatre Arts were also winners – they picked up the Evening News Drama Award for Best Play for their production of Dennis Potter’s Blue Remembered Hills. It was handed to them by Bullseye host Jim Bowen in a glittering ceremony in the Gilded Balloon’s Library Bar.

Director Mike Duffy said: “I am absolutely delighted, and surprised in a way because we were doing a play that wasn’t an obvious box office draw.

“Potter is most well known as a TV screenwriter but when I saw the play I always thought that it would be better performed on stage and I think we’ve just been proved right.”

Clearly starstruck in the presence of Jim Bowen, Mike described the former-Bullseye presenter as “a legend”.

After he handed over the award, Jim said: “I started in ‘am dram’ myself.

We never had any of the encouragement on offer here today, which is why awards like this are so important.”

More than 100 actors, directors and producers from all 13 nominated amateur companies watched the presentation of the Endas, introduced to recognise the work of local companies during the Fringe, where coverage is often dominated by large-scale productions from across the world.

The runner-up in the Best Play category went to Leitheatre for their production of Rikki Fulton’s A Wee Touch o’ Class, while Edinburgh University Savoy Opera Group came second in the Best Musical category.

Southern Light Opera Drama received the first Evening News Theatre Critic’s Commendation for their production of Black Chiffon, from Thom Dibdin.

SLO chairwoman and leading lady Elspeth Smith said: “I’ve read Tom’s reviews for many years and I must say it’s an honour to receive his commendation, but my fiercest critic is still my mother so I was even more delighted when she found our play enthralling.”

The expert judging panel consisted of included Evening News theatre critic Thom Dibdin, Edinburgh Playhouse general manager James Haworth, actor Arron Usher, musicals producer Eleanor Brown, and Ron Cattell and Fiona Rogan of the Scottish Community Drama Association.