"Careful the tale you tell" at Bretforton's Theatrebarn


Theatrebarn, Bretforton, Evesham *****
It's heart-warming to feel the palpable sense of goodwill surrounding Theatrebarn. This newly-revived theatre-dining experience takes place in a cosy, intimate little raked theatre with a fabulous acoustic in a converted barn, and with lavish kitchens and comfortable post-show dining areas attached.
Saturday's was the second production from this reborn enterprise, "Careful the tale you tell" featuring three well-known performers in the Whately family -- actors Kevin and wife Madelaine Newton and their singer daughter Kitty -- in a sequence of slightly scary readings and music making the listener want to curl up safely in front of a comforting fire (the comfort here came with the brilliant food afterwards).
This was the world premiere of this presentation, and it certainly deserves to be heard again. Kevin and Madelaine nuanced their readings grippingly, with too many highlights to mention, though I was particularly moved by Madelaine's extract from Colm Toibin's The Testament of Mary and Kevin's breathing new life into John Masefield's Sea Fever.
Kitty has a compelling stage-presence (stillness enlivened by the slightest confiding gesture) and a vocal armoury which can range from the menacingly dark to the trippingly ingenuous.
Again, too many highlights to single out, but Jonathan Dove's The Siren made an arresting beginning, Samuel Barber's The Crucifixion was totally moving, and Joseph Horowitz's Lady Macbeth scena chillingly took us by the throat (a world away from his jokey Captain Noah and his Floating Zoo) before a Stephen Sondheim concluding set.
Simon Lepper was the resourceful, insightful accompanist, totally as one with his soloist, and drawing a rich cornucopia of colours from this responsive piano.
Drinks and canapes beforehand, drinks and more canapes halfway, and the delicious supper at the end completed a magical evening. I don't usually approve of exclusive black-tie events, but here it seemed appropriate for this very civilised evening of gourmet music and literature.
*Theatrebarn details on www.theatrebarn.org
Christopher Morley

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