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Watermill Theatre - The Miller's Child

12th to 15th July 2017

Review from the Newbury Weekly News.

Super-natural performers

100 schoolchildren on stage to tell the tale of The Watermill ghost

The Miller's Child, at The Watermill, Bagnor, from Wednesday, July 12, to Saturday, July 15

What better way to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of The Watermill theatre than a play – The Miller's Child – about this beautiful building's origins, performed by the youngsters of the Federation of Small Schools?

This is the 11th year of this collaboration and writer and director Heidi Bird has created a fitting tribute to the lives and history of the people of Bagnor who occupied the mill.

It's an enormous undertaking to bring together 100 children from six primary schools to tell this intriguing tale.

Isobel Nicolson's atmospheric multi-level set, with brown fabric panels on the walls and a huge hopper above, creates the rural ambience, with emotive lighting by Lawrence T Doyle and sound by Chloe Dougan.

Stockcross School began this magical family story with owner Peter and his family working the mill, grinding corn for bread for the local community and selling it at the market.

Each school played similar characters, with the clever use of the same costumes to ensure continuity.

Continuing the story we find out from Chaddleworth St Andrew's and Great Shefford School that the price of bread is going up and children are starving.

We meet family members Georgina and Robert and the youngest daughter Mary, as well as Katherine their mother.

But times are hard and the mill has to be put up for sale. Disaster strikes when a simple game of hide-and-seek results in a terrible accident and poor Mary is drowned by the wheel.

The pupils of Shaw-cum-Donnington take on the mantle as storytellers as the narrative develops. But luck is not on the side of the new owners and misfortune strikes again when the mill catches fire, but they manage to save it and 21-year-old David Gollins decides to buy the dilapidated mill and turn it into a theatre.

After the interval, Welford and Wickham continued the story and the mill was transformed into Gollins' dream of a fully functioning theatre with lots of help from the villagers and the first season of Shakespeare productions was achieved.

But who is this ghostly figure that appears… could it possibly be little Mary watching over her previous home?

Inkpen school brings us more up to date with the Newbury Bypass destroying the landscape and all too briefly we learn about the late Jill Fraser, who called the protest "the third battle of Newbury" and was so successfully the theatre's guiding light for many years.

The stage management was impressive.

It must have been like a military operation organising the large cast – who are too many to name individually.

They all performed with confidence and commitment and they should be extremely proud of their splendid achievement.