Gogol's The Portrait
Adapted and directed by Amy and Tony Trigwell-Jones and devised by the company
Newbury Youth Theatre
Quaker Meeting House
There was a moment of unintended humour before this show even started, an announcement from one of the front of House staff that "The house is now open for Google's The Portrait." A sign of the times!
The Newbury Youth Theatre has an excellent record at the Fringe and they certainly did not disappoint this time. A company of 17 and the tiny stage space of the Quaker Meeting House seemed like a recipe for, if not disaster, at least confusion, but it wasn't so. The members of the company are not only well drilled but sensitive to what is happening around them so that if there was very occasionally a fractional delay in someone being in the right place, it was hardly noticeable and so didn't matter.
This is a true ensemble production with very high production values in Fringe terms. Some of the company play musical instruments to accompany the action and the set, a wall covered with the frames of numerous paintings which opened for the actors behind to speak through them, was impressive. Impressive, too, was the huge puppet of the central character, the Moneylender, which was mainly seen through the top frame but did make one appearance in all his glory on stage.
The piece is full of humour but tells a serious story, typical of Gogol, and this young cast do it full justice. This is a production worthy to stand alongside others by more experienced and older companies.
Reviewer: Peter Lathan