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Progress Theatre - Five Children and It!

29th December 2008 to 10th January 2009.

Review from the Newbury Weekly News.

Five go back to childhood

Five Children and It, at Progress Theatre, Reading, from December 29 to January 10

This E. Nesbit novel is the enchanting tale of five children and their discovery of a sand fairy who grants them wishes. It tells of the adventures that the children have and how they learn to be careful of what they wish for.

Progress Theatre's production had been adapted from the novel by Ali Carroll, who also directed with Christine Moran. Together this team made every effort to give the story a refreshing new angle and demonstrated their creative flare.

Instead of five siblings, we were introduced to five children being ill-treated in an unsavoury orphanage. Patrick Grimes as Cyril, Jack Jones as Robert, Syvie Briggs as Anthea and Maddie Fleming as Jane performed wonderfully together - a credit to the directors' casting.

The added twist was that the story begins with all five children as grown ups. They return to the sand fairy and wish for the story of their youthful adventure to be retold.

This worked well and the adult characters remained part of the action, discreetly interacting with the children and also assuming the role of five narrators.

Kevin Hallett as adult Cyril, Steve Webb as adult Robert, Laura Lewis as adult Jane and Michael Beakhouse as adult Lamb, captured the characteristics of the children's roles.

But, of course, there would be no story without the impish Psammead - or sand fairy to us - played by Sam Rogers. Sam was full of fun and won the audience over instantly with her excellent portrayal.

A well-designed set complemented the action, with hinged flats hidden all over the stage allowing fluent scene changes by cast. However, the actual painting was not of the same standard and neither the lighting. The arrival of sunset was often too subtle to be effective.

But this caused no serious distraction and it was a good production. Perhaps a shorter run would have seen a fuller audience enjoying it? It certainly entertained me and I would look forward to their next.