Next Time I'll Sing to You, at the Richmond Orange Tree has a brilliant ensemble with some real star turns:
Roger Parkins (Meff) delivers a strongly felt comedic performance in this, his professional debut; Aden Gillett (Rudge) brings a winning mix of passion, inventiveness and humour to the role of 'the creator', Rudge. His speeches have great clarity and space - he speaks at his own pace (a real lesson to so many actors), and he savours his lines. It is a terrific performance.
The star of the show is undoubtedly Jamie Newall, 'the Hermit'. Towards the end of the play, Newall circles the Orange Tree stage, wearing in his frayed hermit rags and saintly beard, clutching his pocket-sized bible; his eyes are fixed on the movements and discussions continuing stage-centre, but something tells you that his thoughts are far from the action and indeed the theatre. His on-stage character becomes so wrapt up in the part he is being directed in, that he gradually ceases to be himself - you get the sense that Newall goes through this same journey. It is wonderful to watch.
The Richmond Orange Tree theatre is in the round, which always creates challenges for a director. Anthony Clark does a wonderful job, constantly changing the positions and angles of the actors. Communication has been made a clear focus. Audience members are directly addressed throughout the play: eye contact is made, and fleeting moments of improvisation break down the invisible barrier. This is just one of the objectives in a complex play by the late James Saunders. It is an examination of the human mind: to see humanity through the eyes of a single man (the Hermit). But although it is challenging to an audience on many levels, it is also incredibly funny. Holly Elmes' speech at the beginning of the second act is theatre comedy at its best. Look out for Brendan Patricks too, whose dry wit is set against the clownish humour of Roger Parkins. Fans of Downton Abbey may recognise Patricks as Evelyn Napier from the first series.
The Richmond Orange Tree is a wonderful place, a few metres from Richmond station. It was one of the first theatres I went to as a child, and it always has a certain magic for me. This is a rare chance to see this strange but hilarious and thought-provoking play. Don't miss it.
Next Time I'll Sing to You continues until 10 December, book here.
Written by a Thoroughly Modern Man, Alex Knox.