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The Boxford Masques: The Crowning of the Year

July 26 to 30 2006.

From the Newbury Weekly News.

Tip-top performance in quest for top tree

The Boxford Masques: The Crowning of the Year at Hoar Hill, Boxford, on July 26 to 30

It was a perfect summer's evening for outdoor community theatre. The weather was beautiful; the setting at the top of Hoar Hill idyllic and the sense of excitement from the younger members of the cast could be felt as you passed their tented village on your way to the naturally-formed amphitheatre.

The Boxford Masques and The Watermill theatre's production of The Crowning of the Year is based on Charlotte Peake's original stories and adapted by award-winning local author Geraldine McCaughrean.

As the trees gather to crown their monarch for the year, a woodsman enters with his son.

The trees are in trouble and one of them is to be felled. So the adventure begins as the trees resort to magic, conjuring up ghosts of the past in an attempt to stop their destruction and show how important the glade was to the generations who visited it throughout the centuries.

Enter the birds, energetically choreographed by Bettina Strickler as they try to help the trees. We also find out how they managed to gain their wings.

Gareth Warne was splendid as the woodsman weaving the scenes together. Paul Kissaun's evocative music added much to the atmosphere with some strong ballads, including Lost and Found, beautifully sung by Carl Callow, the woodman's son, and his girlfriend Laura (Nina Kissaun), and the recurring theme Anything's Possible.

We meet Lady Elmstock (Annabel Bailey), who is longing for a child but remains childless, and Elsie, who becomes pregnant and gives her child away, gave rise to an excellent character performance by Lizzie Sigrist.

The Oak declares herself 'queen', but the birds are needed to help decide and they tell the story of the wren and the eagle.

Simon Fenton had good comic invention as the Bosky man and Pig, a hilarious piece of audience participation.

Above all, this was a play celebrating the eternal qualities of life and love and harmony, themes that are so relevant today with worries over global warming and world peace.

Beautifully costumed and performed with energy and commitment, the director Ade Morris created an entrancing, magical performance from an enthusiastic ensemble company. A wonderful achievement. Bravo.