The Death of Chatterton

Tim Norton

Young Pleasance

Pleasance Courtyard

From 04 August 2012 to 18 August 2012

Rating: *****

Review by Robin Strapp

The Young Pleasance has been performing at the Fringe for the past 16 years and they consistently produce exciting high quality work and this year is no exception and they have an absolute hit on their hands in this excellent new play, The Death of Chatterton skilfully written by Tim Ford, who also stylishly directs with Ed Sayer.

The 40-strong company performs with confidence, panache and flair with each character fully developed in what is a stunning production.

The play traces the history of the poet Thomas Chatterton who was discovered dead in an attic garret in London in 1770 at the age of 17. He was found penniless, unloved and clutching the poison that killed him, but had he really committed suicide?

Henry Wallis painted a Pre-Raphaelite masterpiece in 1859 which depicts the image of the starving lad slumped in bed and it hangs in the Royal Academy.

The action of the play shifts seamlessly between London and Bristol in the 18th Century to the present day. The set design is superb with sliding panels revealing the various locations with projections giving the date and place. Full credit must be given to the sterling stage management team for their work. The costumes were utterly beautiful and completely in keeping with the characters and the periods.

James Colenutt is excellent as Sir Hugh Walton, the curator of the gallery in 2010, but his life is about to change in more ways than one when a young Harvard student, Tom Chadwick, the impressive Justin Hornsby-Cowan, arrives to do research into the painting and the mystery that surrounds it and James Pardon is particularly striking as the petulant boastful Thomas Chatterton.

There are some outstanding individual performances—too many to mention—and the ensemble work is controlled and exceedingly effective.

The storyline takes many twists and turns with some surprising results and reveals a past which mirrors today's obsession with celebrity image and the elixir of youth.

The high production standards in this production from the acting to technical support are in a different league to most Fringe shows.

Do catch this one if you can. You will not be disappointed and it is bound to be one of the hits of the Fringe.