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 Connecting professional and amateur theatre in Newbury, West Berkshire and beyond

The Corn Exchange, Newbury

Box office

0845 5218 218 (calls will cost 2p per minute plus your telephone company’s Access Charge)
The Corn Exchange, Newbury. Visitor information is here. Some performances may be at The Base, Communications Road, Greenham Business Park, Greenham, RG19 6HN. Unless a specific location is given for a performance, it's at the Corn Exchange.

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Reviews of Unlocked and Unbolted

5th September 2020

Review from Newbury Theatre.

The Corn Exchange, Newbury is back with indoor live theatre, and what a return! Unlocked & Unbolted, written and directed by Bryn Holding, was based on the thoughts and ideas of 14 to 21 year olds and performed by a cast of eleven 16 to 18 year olds in an empty performance area below the stage, bare of audience chairs apart from a single row around three sides of the area. The performance I saw was sold out with an audience of 24.

It’s the story of 2020 seen through young people’s eyes and narrated by the cast with lines passing from one person to the next at a great pace. Constantly on the move around the lines on the floor, they managed to keep the social distancing. This was beautifully choreographed by Movement Director Sophie Cottle and skilfully navigated with perfect timing by the cast.

In itself, this was a seriously impressive piece of theatre, but of course what they were talking about is at the heart of the production. Starting before the lockdown, the unease starts to spread, along with the realisation that the grownups – family, teachers, government – don’t know the answers because this has never happened before.

Moving through clapping for carers, Black Lives Matter and gender issues, there’s some existential angst over Who Am I? As the lockdown eases, what’s our tomorrow going to be? Can we make a fresh start?

The 40-minute production ended with Unlocked Anthem, a song composed and organised by Tamsin Kennard and recorded remotely by a platoon of volunteers: things have changed but love will stay the same. A tentative message of hope for young people, amplified when two of the cast break the distancing and embrace – a gesture that seemed daring and slightly shocking.

The acting by the entire cast was extremely good, and the whole production was very moving. There were only three performances, but it was subsequently recorded live without an audience and you can see this until 12th September at cornexchangenew.com/event/unlocked-unbolted-broadcast

Congratulations to the cast and production team for an enthralling performance and to the Corn Exchange for bringing live indoor theatre back to West Berkshire.

PAUL SHAVE

Review from the Newbury Weekly News.

Powerful voice of youth

Stunning production on what Covid means to our 14- to 21-year-olds reopens the Corn Exchange

Unlocked and Unbolted, at the Corn Exchange, on Saturday, September 5, then online

The Corn Exchange reopened on Saturday with a stunning production of Unlocked and Unbolted written and impressively directed by Bryn Holding. All three performances were sold out, so I watched the live broadcast on the Corn Exchange website, which is still available until September 12 and is highly recommended.

The production was staged in the auditorium with Adrian Gee’s geometrical design of coloured tapes creating Imaginative shapes which was skilfully used by the performers and ensured social distancing, which was the artistic device underpinning the play.

Movement director Sophie Cottle's inventive choreography created a constant changing series of montages as the individual stories were told. Composer and musical director Tamsin Kennard had written original music for the piece and Joseph Harris’s evocative soundscape also included extracts of comments from politicians, which wan a poignant feature.

Completing the creative team was Joseph Stairs, whose dramatic dynamic lighting was stunning.

The performance was the fruition of online conversations with 14- to 21-year-olds on what Covid-19 meant to them followed by rehearsals with 11 young performers aged 16 to 18 on Zoom and physically distanced.

The production is a powerful insight into how they view the world today; their thoughts hopes and experiences of living through the pandemic.

It is very much a physical ensemble piece with words and actions shared between the cast as they question the effects of the disease and their concerns about schools being closed and what will happen about their exams and how will that affect their futures?

Under normal circumstances parents and teachers would have the answers, but not now, as the reality of the situation sets in and lockdown takes effect. One actor says: “Even the dogs have had enough, exhausted by constant walks.”

The impressive cast tackle a large agenda of today’s issues with honesty, including Black Lives Matter and the global climate, but are convinced that the Government is more interested in getting the economy up and running again.

They are hoping for a new start, a new tomorrow and peace in an emotive stirring anthem, “we are the people, love will stay the same” that is sung by an 18-strong chorus who were pre-recorded.

This was a thought provoking production and the company are to be congratulated on their achievement.

ROBIN STRAPP

For more details

see the Corn Exchange web site at www.cornexchangenew.com.

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