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Watermill Theatre

Box office

01635 46044. www.watermill.org.uk

The Watermill Theatre, Bagnor, Newbury, RG20 8AE. A map is here. A seating plan is here.
@WatermillTh

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Reviews of Just So

30th July to 4th September 2021

Review from Newbury Theatre.

Settle down, best beloved, for two hours of gentle storytelling in the Watermill’s garden. Just So is a melding of five of Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories into a family musical by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe.

The Eldest Magician (Nathanael Campbell) provides the link between them, from the Time of the Very Beginnings when he had created the earth and the sea and the animals. But the Giant Crab didn’t want to be told what to do by the Eldest Magician so it went off on its own into the sea and started making the sea waters rise and fall. The Elephant Child (Eleanor Kane), who was always asking questions, decided to go on a quest with the Kolokolo Bird who couldn’t fly (Emma Lucia) to persuade the Giant Crab to stop. They start at the great grey-green greasy Limpopo River and make their way out to sea. During their adventures they meet many other creatures, finally ending back where they started.

As a musical, it’s big on songs, light on speech – The Parsee Cake-Walk had a catchy rousing tune and Jungle Light was a haunting song – and the small outdoor stage is always packed with singers and players, cleverly choreographed by Chi-San Howard.

It all moves along at a great pace and there are some stand-out performances in a strong cast. Musical director Dan de Cruz plays Parsee Man and Jaguar with brio, Alexander Bean makes a great Rhino and Campbell brings calm and authority to the Elder Magician. Laura Andresen Guimarães and Kemi Clarke were confident and sang well in their professional debuts. Peter Mooney and Emma Jane Morton as Kangaroo and Dingo had a good three-round fight in the second half.

It’s not easy getting the voices to reach a scattered crowd in the garden. Some of the cast achieved this easily while others had difficulty competing with the River Lambourn. As they were all miked up, a bit of volume tweaking should be able to sort this out.

Abigail Pickard Price directs a show that is charming and fun, which should appeal to families – maybe aged seven and upwards – and is an excellent introduction to Kipling’s stories. Read them to yourself, your children and grandchildren.

Just So is just so enjoyable.

PAUL SHAVE

Review from the Newbury Weekly News.

Kipling with pizzaz

Just So was first performed at the Watermill Theatre in 1989 and it was good to see it return to its ‘home’ for this 2021 semi-staged concert production, with George Stiles who wrote the music and Anthony Drewe the lyrics in the audience.

Based on Rudyard Kipling’s delightful children’s stories, this effervescent musical feast is blessed by a terrific cast who exude energy and pizzazz as they bring the tales to life.

Different coloured dungarees (costumes designed by Katie Lias), cleverly reflect the animals characters and the imaginative set uses large illustrations as if from a picture book to suggest The Jungle – or Veldt – worked well.

The excellent Nathanael Campbell is the eldest magician and our storyteller, who opens the magical storybook and begins “at the time of the very beginning” as he creates all the creatures in the world. However, they all look the same and so he tasks them to find their individuality and “go out to play together”.

But all is not well as the elephants need to find higher ground when the Earth begins to flood as Pau Amma the giant crab causes havoc with the tides as he searches for food.

The intrepid insatiably curious elephant child (Eleanor Kane) and the exotic flamingo Kolokolo Bird (Emma Lucia), complete with pink feather boa, set off on a quest to find him in the “dark grey-green greasy Limpopo River” to try to persuade him to change his ways.

Their sea journey takes them to a desert island where they find the flamboyant Parsee Man (Dan De Cruz) sipping cocktails. He also plays a sleek jaguar and is the musical director for the show.

He is served by his devoted Cooking Stove, complete with chef’s hat, played by Peter Mooney, who also provides much comedy as a Kangaroo.

Laura Andresen Guimarães as the Zebra and Emma Jane Morton playing the Giraffe are portrayed as typical Essex girls. But little did they know that the Jaguar and the Leopard (Kemi Clarke) are planning to “take the girls out for dinner”… quite literally.

Along the way we learn how the Rhino (Alexander Bean) got his wrinkly skin.

Eventually the Elephant Child arrives at the Limpopo River where he asks the crocodile for help, but gets his nose trapped in his jaws – well a suitcase, clever touch – and as he tries to escape, his trunk grows. So that’s how he got his long trunk.

As to the crab, he is shrunk to normal size and the seas return to normal. Mission complete, proving that an individual with courage can make a difference.

The musicianship of this highly-accomplished cast is impressive, each playing a wide variety of instruments, and Christopher Jahnke’s orchestration raises the bar.

Director Abigail Pickard Price creates a show brimming with inventiveness. This is a family show not to be missed Oh Best Beloved.

ROBIN STRAPP

There are reviews from What's On Stage ("joyous action-packed show... wonderful storytelling and the lightest family-friendly touch" - ★★★★), Wokingham Today ("a consistently fantastic cast... fun for adults and anyone with an interest in musicals and the natural world"), PocketSize Theatre ("another talented cast of actor-musicians" - ★★), Musical Theatre Review ("another theatrical “rendezvous with relish” for which the Watermill should be justly proud" - ★★★★).

Reviews in the Archive

As You Like It (June 2021)
The Hound of the Baskervilles (May and August 2021)
A Christmas Carol (December 2020)
Lone Flyer (October 2020)
Bloodshot (September 2020)
Camelot (August 2020)
The Hound of the Baskervilles (July 2020)
The Wicker Husband (March 2020)
The Prince and the Pauper (November 2019)
A Midsummer Night’s Dream (February 2020)
One Million Tiny Plays About Britain (February 2020)
Assassins (September 2019)
Kiss Me, Kate (July 2019)
Our Church (June 2019)
The Importance of Being Earnest (May 2019)
Amélie (April 2019)
Macbeth (February 2019)
Robin Hood (November 2018)
Murder For Two (January 2019)
Jane Eyre (October 2018)
Trial by Laughter (September 2018)
Sweet Charity (July 2018)
Jerusalem (June 2018)
A Midsummer Night’s Dream (May 2018)
Burke and Hare (April 2018 and on tour)
Digging For Victory Senior Youth Theatre (March 2018)
The Rivals (March 2018)
Teddy (January 2018)
The Borrowers (November 2017)
Under Milk Wood (October 2017)
Loot (September 2017)
The Picture of Dorian Gray (September 2017 and on tour)
A Little Night Music (July 2017)
All at Sea! (July 2017)
The Miller's Child (July 2017)
Nesting (July 2017 and on tour)
House and Garden (May 2017)
See Newbury Dramatic Society for a review of Maskerade (May 2016)
Twelfth Night (April 2017)
Faust x2 (March 2017)
Murder For Two (January 2017)
Sleeping Beauty (November 2016)
Frankenstein (October 2016)
The Wipers Times (September 2016)
Crazy For You (July 2016)
Watership Down (June 2016)
Untold Stories (May 2016)
See the Box Theatre Company review of The Sea (April 2016)
One Million Tiny Plays About Britain (April 2016 and on tour)
Romeo and Juliet (February 2016)
Tell Me on a Sunday (January 2016)
Alice in Wonderland (November 2015)
Gormenghast (November 2015) - see the Youth page
The Ladykillers (September 2015)
Oliver! (July 2015)
A Little History of the World (July 2015 and on tour)
Between the Lines (July 2015)
The Deep Blue Sea (June 2015)
Far From the Madding Crowd (April 2015)
Tuxedo Junction (March 2015)
The Secret Adversary (February 2015)
Peter Pan (November 2014)
But First This (October 2014)
Twelfth Night (November 2014) - see the Youth page
Journey's End (September 2014)
Calamity Jane (July 2014)
The Boxford Masques - Joe Soap's Masquerade (July 2014)
Hardboiled - the Fall of Sam Shadow (July 2014)
A Bunch of Amateurs (May 2014)
See the Box Theatre Company review of The Canterbury Tales (May 2014)
Sense and Sensibility (April 2014)
Life Lessons (March 2014)
All My Sons (February 2014)
The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea (January 2014)
Pinocchio (November 2013)
Sherlock's Last Case (September 2013)
Romeo+Juliet (September 2013 and on tour)
The Witches of Eastwick (July 2013)
Laurel & Hardy (June 2013)
The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (May 2013)
The Miser (April 2013)
David Copperfield (March 2013)
Sleuth (February 2013)
Arabian Nights (November 2012)
The Tempest (September 2012)
Thoroughly Modern Millie (August 2012)
Boxford Masques (July 2012)
Ben Hur (June 2012)
Of Mice and Men (May 2012)
Love on the Tracks (April 2012 and on tour)
Henry V and The Winter's Tale (April 2012)
Lettice and Lovage (February 2012)
The Wind in the Willows (November 2011)
Some Like It Hotter (November 2011 and on tour)
Great Expectations (September 2011)
Radio Times (August 2011)
The Marriage of Figaro (July 2011)
Moonlight and Magnolias (May 2011)
Richard III and The Comedy of Errors (April 2011)
The Clodly Light Opera and Drama Society (March 2011)
Relatively Speaking (February 2011)
Treasure Island (November 2010)
Single Spies (September 2010)
Copacabana (July 2010)
Daisy Pulls It Off (June 2010)
Brontë (April 2010)
Raising Voices (March 2010)
Confused Love (March 2010)
Heroes (February 2010)
James and the Giant Peach (November 2009)
Educating Rita (October 2009)
Spend Spend Spend! (July 2009 and September 2010)
Blithe Spirit (May 2009)
Bubbles (April to May and September to October 2009)
A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Merchant of Venice (March 2009)
Life X 3 (January 2009)
Matilda and Duffy's Stupendous Space Adventure (November 2008)
The Sirens' Call (November 2008)
Our Country's Good (September 2008)
See Newbury Dramatic Society for a review of The Recruiting Officer (October 2008)
Sunset Boulevard (July 2008)
Boxford Masques - Knight and Day (July 2008)
Black Comedy and The Bowmans (May 2008)
London Assurance (April 2008)
Micky Salberg's Crystal Ballroom Dance Band (April 2008 and on tour)
Great West Road (March 2008)
Merrily We Roll Along (March 2008)
Honk! (November 2007)
Rope (September 2007)
Martin Guerre (July 2007)
Twelfth Night (June 2007)
The Story of a Great Lady (April and September 2007, and on tour)
The Rise and Fall of Little Voice (April 2007)
For Services Rendered (March 2007)
Plunder (January 2007)
The Snow Queen (November 2006)
Peter Pan in Scarlet (October 2006)
The Taming of the Shrew (September 2006 and on tour in 2007)
Hot Mikado (July 2006 and September 2009)
Boxford Masques: The Crowning of the Year (July 2006)
Hobson's Choice (May 2006)
Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea (April 2006)
Tartuffe (February 2006)
The Jungle Book (November 2005)
The Gilded Lilies (October 2005)
Copenhagen (September 2005)
The Garden of Llangoed (September 2005 and September 2006)
Thieves' Carnival (July 2005)
The Shed (July 2005)
Mack and Mabel (May 2005)
The Odyssey (May 2005)
Broken Glass (April 2005)
The Winter's Tale (January 2005)
Arabian Nights (December 2004)
See Newbury Dramatic Society for a review of Whose Life is it Anyway? (November 2004)
Multiplex (November 2004)
Neville's Island (September 2004)
The Comedian (September 2004 and March 2005)
Raising Voices Again (September 2004)
Pinafore Swing (July 2004)
The Venetian Twins (May 2004)
The Gentleman from Olmedo (April 2004)
Mr & Mrs Schultz (March 2004 and on tour)
Sweeney Todd (February 2004)
The Emperor and the Nightingale (November 2003)
See Newbury Dramatic Society for a review of An Ideal Husband (November 2003)
A Star Danced (September 2003)
The Fourth Fold (September 2003)
The Last Days of the Empire (July 2003)
Accelerate (July 2003)
Dreams from a Summer House (May 2003)
The Triumph of Love (April 2003)
Gigolo (March 2003)
Raising Voices (March 2003)
A Midsummer Night's Dream (February 2003)
The Firebird (November 2002)
Ten Cents a Dance (September 2002)
Dancing at Lughnasa (July 2002)
Love in a Maze (June 2002)
Fiddler on the Roof (April 2002)
I Dreamt I Dwelt in Marble Halls (March 2002 and March 2006)
Only a Matter of Time (February 2002)
Cinderella and the Enchanted Slipper (November 2001)
Piaf (October 2001)
The Merchant of Venice (October 2001)
Witch (September 2001)
The Clandestine Marriage (August 2001)
The Importance of Being Earnest (May 2001)
Gondoliers (March 2001)
Rose Rage (February 2001)
Carmen (July 2000)