Connecting professional and amateur theatre in Newbury, West Berkshire and beyond

Watermill Youth Theatre - The Girl Who Never Forgot

30th March to 2nd April 2011.

This review is from the Newbury Weekly News.

Director made of the write stuff

Beth Flintoff's playwriting debut for The Watermill youth theatre

The Girl Who Never Forgot, at The Watermill, Bagnor, from Wednesday, March 30 to Saturday, April 2

The Watermill Senior Youth Theatre's The Girl Who Never Forgot is a taut thriller set in post-war Europe. Beth Flintoff has not only deftly directed this first-class production but has also written the play, her first venture into playwriting and it's an intriguing adventure yarn.

The large cast of 28 captured perfectly the film noir-esque genre and relished their performances with some fine ensemble playing as well as keenly-observed individual acting.

Sophie (Harriet Carter) has photographic memory and has come to the attention of university psychologist Florence (Samantha Grice). She is recruited to go undercover and try to recover a crucial missing document and remember it.

Student Freddie Balson (Euan Humphreys) agrees to help as Sarah Balson (Talitha Wing) explains she is looking for "a chap with a map" and so the perilous quest begins in earnest.

Genevieve McCallum plays Priscilla, the owner of the Apple Tree café that is a hive of activity, with its eclectic mix of clientele from journalist Charlie (Alex Londsdale) to Leon (Ben Tarquini), who has just been promoted and orders drinks all round, which suits Mr Lewis (Samuel Steele-Childe) the resident drunk and Sissy (Lizzie Dunmore), whose ambition is to be an actress. Then there is the strange man lurking in the shadows - Surliton (Tom Stockwell) - what does he want?

Robert Conway plays Sophie's husband and also links much of the story. Sophie's wartime experiences leave every image imprinted on her brain; it's a daunting task to have a photographic memory

Eventually Sophie finds the document behind a painting and uses her memory to draw it but this map is a copy, so who has the original? Why is she now being chased by a group of identically dressed men?

The trail takes her to Venice, where she takes a gondola ride in what was a marvellous piece of theatrical fun and invention. She has to find a Moroccan box and discover its contents and this is where the plot twists and turns like a Hitchcock film - with undercover agents, MI5 involvement, guards being overpowered by Sophie and Florence and Gloria (Sophie Tripp) revealed as a member of the secret service with the key to the box hidden in the Eiffel tower and its horrific secret is the formula for a devastating bomb.

I won’t reveal the dramatic and unexpected dénouement  but I was left with the question: did Sophie look at the plans and commit them to her memory and if so what will happen to her now? Perhaps there is a sequel planned.

Inventively staged with costumes that captured the period, a striking set design by Will Fricker and atmospheric lighting by Nick Flintoff, this was a sterling production from a talented cast.

ROBIN STRAPP