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Kennet School - The Coming of the Kings

6th December 2001.

This is from the NWN.

Stars shine bright

'THE COMING OF THE KINGS', the Kennet School annual production, on Thursday, December 6

The star is a central symbol in the Christmas story, and there was no shortage of stars in Kennet School's Christmas production.

The evening began with a delightful performance, directed by Dave Cath, of the West Woodhay Mummers' play, its first since 1901. Carl Stallwood, the endearingly comic jester, introduced the traditional characters and encouraged the audience to cheer and boo as appropriate. The cast, impressively costumed, were perfectly at ease working in the round. The audience then took their seats in the hall.

We expected to he challenged by Ted Hughes' re-working of the familiar story, and we were. This was no cosy, traditional nativity. Here was harsh reality and hardship as Mary and Joseph made their slow, painful journey, and the Kings followed their own star, at the centre of which was a cross, reminding us of the final sacrifice.

Nevertheless there was a lightness of touch and much humour from the start, with the Fortune Teller throwing presents down to the crowd, which then created a noisy farmyard scene with their toys and puppets.

The Innkeeper and his wife, totally missing the real point, continued their easy bickering in the frustrated pursuit of worldly wealth while we were encouraged to look for wealth of a different kind. The staging was deceptively simple, highly imaginative, and completely involving, so we were challenged, not for the first time, to accept that school students can produce the most professional standards if the director believes they can.

The whole cast were stars, individually and collectively, but special mention must he made of Joseph Thorpe and Beccy Chaplin as the increasingly harassed Innkeepers, and Paul Kerry who played Fortune Teller and Minstrel. His extraordinary stage presence is remarkable in one so young.

Director Pete Watt demonstrated his usual flair, his eye for the innovative, and his ability to draw out from his talented students a wonderful, sustained piece of ensemble theatre. This was sadly his final production for Kennet School. A generation of students, and their audiences, have reason to be immensely grateful. We wish him well.