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The Snow Goose
15th December 2020 - 19th December 2020
Malvern Theatres Young Company presents
Rhys Harris-Clarke, Daniel Davis, Jennifer Thompson-Chatburn
The Snow Goose
By Paul Gallico
Directed by Nic Lloyd
Essex Marshes, 1940.
Philip has retreated alone to an abandoned lighthouse, where he spends his time painting the stark and beautiful surrounding landscape. Then one day, Philip is unexpectedly joined by Frith, who brings with her a wounded snow goose. Initially shy of each other, Philip and Frith’s relationship develops as together they nurse the injured bird back to health.
Paul Gallico’s moving classic, set against the backdrop of war, is a heartfelt exploration of friendship, sacrifice and ultimately, love.
Born in New York in 1897, Paul Gallico was a novelist, short story, and successful sports writer. Many of his works inspired adaptations for film, TV and stage shows. His short story, The Seven Souls of Clement O’Reilly was adapted into the Oscar-winning motion picture Lili, and later staged as the musical Carnival!. Written in 1941, The Snow Goose is considered Gallico’s most critically successful work.
Rhys Harris-Clarke returns to the Festival Theatre stage following his performance in Alan Bennett’s A Chip in the Sugar in October. He is joined by Daniel Davis and Jennifer Thompson-Chatburn, who also began their acting careers with Malvern Theatres Young Company. The production is directed by Nic Lloyd.
Running time: Approx 70 minutes (no interval)
Recommended for ages 12+
Please read our Theatre Booking Guidelines before booking.
In the face of much despondency and misery, where theatres throughout the land have been plunged into darkness and despair, it is heartwarming to know, that once again at Malvern the lamps have been lit on the altar of Thespis and a play has been brought to life by a small company of gifted actors.
Their director is Nic Lloyd, who, above all else, is a dedicated theatre man who in my opinion, should receive any awards going for the persistent quality of live theatre he has brought here to Malvern during these traumatic times, when much worthy human endeavour has fallen by the roadside, an undeserved and unlooked for tragedy from which many gifted theatre people may never recover.
But here at Malvern, where Sir Barry Jackson once brought troupes of actors during the thirties rep theatre seasons ( many of whom, such as Errol Flynn----remember him as Robin Hood and Claude Rains notable in" Casablanca", helped Hollywood towards eventual greatness) and where Priestley, Shaw and Elgar once sat in the stalls, offering advice and encouragement, we now have Mr Lloyd's valiant young actors presenting this successful production of Paul Gallico's "The Snow Goose".
The production here is sensitive and brooding with a touch of darkness, intermingled with flashbacks to real history., and with sumptuous back projection settings recalling Peter Scott's lyrical watercolours. The perfect mood music is a clip from Benjamin Britten's "Sea Symphony".
Rhys Harris-Clarke, a young actor who grows confidently in terms of his performance skills, plays Philip,an unrecognised, disabled and ageing artist who has retreated to an abandoned south coast lighthouse,where he pursues a lonely, mildly eccentric, existence surrounded by canvases depicting the stark local landscapes, canvases nobody seems to want, which he manages to paint using one hand only ( his other hand is heavily deformed). Philip has a love for the migrating colonies of wild birds which make their seasonal home nearby. A wounded snow goose is brought to him by Frith, a painfully shy young girl who knows Philip will somehow get the bird to fly again, which is what happens.
The scenes move along in a kind of emotional twilight, and thus a painfully awkward relationship is established between the young girl ( the sensitive Jennifer Thompson-Chatburn) and the reticent old painter.
It is all beautifully played, there is no phoney sentimentality, and no unneccessary contact. These two individuals have little to offer each other except a painfully non-explicit compassion, which carries them through, and makes them believable, although Gallico furnishes little information as to their past histories.
A young soldier enters, ( played with skill and confidence by the darkly handsome Daniel Davis, looking like a young Stewart Granger ( here at Malvern in rep during the thirties). The soldier brings with him the fast, no-nonsense rush and bustle of the outside world, the world of 1940, where young servicemen find themselves adjusting to a new existence, which is threatened with destruction or disruption by a possible Nazi invasion.
Time passes swiftly, and Philip struggles to overcome his relegation to the sidelines, although he feels disabled people like him, can still play a part in a national crisis like Dunkirk. Philip slips away quietly in a flimsy boat, with the friendly snow goose flying overhead " like an angel", determined to do his bit in the evacuation from the Dunkirk beaches.
Davis comes into his own at this point, and his long and complicated narration of the horrors of the Dunkirk evacuation and the
consequent death of Philip in the boat, is done with bravura skills, and certainly for this reviewer; was one of the most moving scenes of the evening..
But for all these young actors, who are part of the Malvern Theatres Young Company, praise must be extended immediately for their courage to join
Nic Lloyd in presenting this subtle play so well, also praise must be given for the high standards of vocal presentation-- I promise you will hear every word.
Choice Radio Worcester
Normally at this time of year, it is the start of the panto season in Malvern.
But this is no normal year and the panto is, at best, on hold (more about pantos later).
Luckily, Malvern has a history of successfully developing new talent through the Malvern Theatres Young Company and Director Nic Lloyd has been able to tap into this pool of young actors to put on a number of plays which, though small in terms of the numbers of actors, are nonetheless impressive in the quality of the productions.
The latest of these is Paul Gallico's The Snow Goose. Set in 1940, Gallico's play recounts the story of Philip - played by Rhys Harris-Clarke - who is described as an ugly fella, an artist with a claw hand who keeps himself much to himself in an abandoned lighthouse. Until, that is, he is joined by Frith (Jennifer Thompson-Chatburn), a young girl who presents him with a wounded bird, the snow goose of the title. The small cast is completed by Daniel Davis.
An unexpected friendship between Philip and Frith ensues but the war intervenes and Philip is finally able to show his worth as a sailor assisting the troops accompanied by the snow goose circling overhead. A tale of friendship definitely but also of the ultimate sacrifice and of love too, Gallico's tale is brought to life on a simple set with some back projections to help with the locations. The cast were clear and word-perfect throughout and effortlessly carried the mainly narrative story through to its sad conclusion.
The show runs until Saturday and social distancing is, of course, in place throughout the theatre.
So what of the panto? Not to be outdone by the pandemic, funnyman and regular at the panto for the past few years Mark James will be appearing in his very own one-man magic show. There'll also be mind-reading, plate spinning and family panto silliness - what could possibly go wrong?! The show runs from Boxing Day through to New Year's Eve.
And if you're still hankering for panto after Mark's show, you're in luck - there is one!
From Thursday January 7th to Sunday 10th, there are 6 performances of Dick Whittington presented by the local Our Star Theatre Company featuring Jacob Buckley as King Rat, Zoe Hutton as Cat, Ben Mowbray as Dick Whittington, Eleanor Catherine Smart as Alice Fitzwarren and Toby Edwards as Dame Sarah Fitzwarren (there has to be a Dame!)
NOTIONS of divine intervention at times of great human trial have been central to story-telling ever since people first huddled around their winter firesides.
The idea that Mankind alone does not determine his destiny fulfils a yearning for salvation when all appears lost.
Arthur Machen’s The Bowmen, in which ethereal archers from Agincourt come to the aid of outnumbered British infantry at Mons in 1914, is a classic example.
It’s perhaps not possible to tell if writer Paul Gallico knew about Machen’s story when he wrote The Snow Goose but the signs do indeed point to at least some awareness.
The setting is the Essex marshes in 1940. Eccentric artist Philip lives alone in an abandoned lighthouse where he spends all his time painting and caring for his beloved migratory birds.
One day, he is joined by Frith, a young girl who is carrying an injured snow goose that has been wounded by wildfowlers’ shotguns.
After much loving care, the bird eventually recovers and takes to the wing once more. But it has not left for good…
As the crisis at Dunkirk gathers momentum, Philip takes his small sailing boat across the Channel and joins the rescue mission to save thousands of British soldiers trapped by the German war machine.
Suddenly, the goose appears overhead like some guardian angel, protecting the man who had once protected him.
Three former members of Malvern Theatres Young Company, under the sterling direction of Nic Lloyd, do more than justice to this parable of mercy and compassion in a cruel world.
Rhys Harris-Clarke takes the role of Philip and makes it his very own, Jennifer Thompson-Chatburn as Frith exudes an electrifying stage presence, while Daniel Davis’ battle-weary soldier effortlessly conveys the horror of being under constant enemy fire.
This was a compelling joint enterprise by young actors displaying great promise under the guiding hand of a skilled director. It runs until Saturday (December 19) and is a credit to all concerned.