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Newbury Dramatic Society - Just So Kipling

13th to 15th July 2016.

Review from Newbury Theatre.

Newbury Dramatic Society continue their tradition of taking an informative show about an historical character (last year, Dickens) to villages in aid of local charities with this year’s production of Just So Kipling, in Hungerford, Kingsclere and Lambourn supporting HADCAF, Kingsclere Library and Riding for the Disabled.

On a simple set, strewn with clothing changes and other props, the cast of five covered the whole of Kipling’s life in an hour, with narrative and extracts from his poems and books (and refreshments to follow!).

Devised and directed by Ann Davidson, it started with The Glory of the Garden, moving from his childhood in Bombay to Lahore at 16 after schooling in England. He travelled to America and South Africa, ending up in England in 1896. Although highly regarded as a writer and poet (he was the youngest recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature), he was a product of the Victorian age and his dedication to Empire was controversial – Orwell described him as a ‘jingo imperialist’.

All five actors took on many roles but the main part of Kipling was played by Trevor Pitman with authority and gravitas, allowing a little levity on the road to Mandalay. Ruth Wheeler played his wife Carrie with dignity but, like his son (Robert Miles), subservient to Kipling’s personality.

Ceri Lawrence, Andrew Smith and Robert Miles played a variety of humans and animals, all well differentiated and convincingly performed.

The production was excellently choreographed and made good use of the stage. When the actors weren’t performing they stood at the sides with their backs to us and unobtrusively changed their costumes.

Some of the text was read from scripts; I didn’t find this distracting but on occasion it caused a break in the pace when there were scene changes. The sound was good – appropriate and not overpowering – but the lighting sometimes left some of the cast in darkness.

I was hugely impressed with this production. Ann Davidson has come up with a piece that is absorbing, instructive and entertaining, finely performed by five very good actors. Ann told me that she’s thinking of Larkin About for next year’s production. Don’t miss it.


Review from the Newbury Weekly News.

Being Kipling

Newbury Dramatic Society's vivid picture of the man, his life and his work

Newbury Dramatic Society: Just So Kipling, at Croft Hall, Hungerford, on Wednesday, July 13

From the famous lines written above the entryway to Wimbledon's Centre Court to The Glory of the Garden, Margaret Thatcher's favourite poem, to his stories for children, Rudyard Kipling's works promote in the reader a sense of patriotism, compassion, joy or simply fun.

Born in Bombay, he loved India and was miserable when, aged five, he was sent home to England.

Later, after much travelling, he learned to love this colder land and his last years were spent in Sussex.

Kipling was a good choice for this vignette by Newbury Dramatic Society, followed by tiffin and drinks – a nice touch to round off the evening.

The back of the stage contained everything needed for the five characters to change roles; this worked well and there was no hesitation as the play continued. The Glory of the Garden began the evening, read in turn by the actors in attractively rustic costumes, and it wasn't long before we were treated to a jolly rendition of The Road to Mandalay from Trevor Pitman as Kipling.

It was Trevor, too, who read I Will Remember What I Was, one of the evening's most memorable poems – not, as so many of Kipling's poignant poems are, concerned with war, but with an elephant looking back.

Kipling's son John was killed in 1915 and he never forgave himself for having encouraged the boy to join up.

Robert Miles was entirely believable as the young vulnerable John, dressed ready to go to the Battle of Loos, which ended his life.

However, Kipling continued to write. Andrew Smith gave a superb reading of The Absent-Minded Beggar, that heartrending poem that raised money for soldiers in the Boer War.

Ruth Wheeler played sweet Carrie, Kipling's wife, and Ceri Lawrence was an energetically entertaining Mowgli in the fun excerpt from The Jungle Book, thought to have been written for Kipling's daughter, who died aged only six. All the actors seamlessly took on other roles as needed.

Director Ann Davidson devised the play and her cast did a good job in bringing to their audience a vivid picture of the man, his work and his life, which ended in 1935. A very enjoyable evening.