Laura Bess Jernigan
Theatre Libre
Leicester Square Theatre

The Company of Hero
Rebekah Roe and Marco Nanetti
Mark Lee and Thom Short

‘Long ago the gypsies were visited by Hero, and each year since they come together to celebrate and tell her tale—so that it may never be forgotten...’

Playwright Laura Bess Jernigan has created her own piece of folklore in this charming play that follows the next chapter in the life of the girl who saved the world but hadn’t expected to survive.

The script combines buoyant humour with wider questions about what it means to be considered a hero. Bravery and strength are celebrated but friendship and wider life experiences are also shown to have merit and their own style of heroics. To be an idealist, notes Hero, is a brave thing in itself.

There is in fact almost a Wizard of Oz-style feel to the self-discovery of the characters as they each learn something on their exciting quest.

In the title role of Hero, Rebekah Roe is imposing and haughty but with a great sense of comic timing and a twinkle in her eye. It is easy to believe that she has commanded soldiers, which makes the journey of her character all the more touching.

As her Guide, Janet Kumah brings a stillness and calm aura to the stage which contrasts perfectly with the bubbly performances of Mark Lee as Rat and Thom Short as Poet.

They are ably supported by the Gypsy dancers (Miranda Colmans, Josie-Beth Davies and Julie Havelund) who alternate between lively wedding routines and more somber movement pieces. Gypsy Father, played by a commanding Marco Nanetti, weaves the narrative together and acts as the link between the re-enactments and Gypsy performers.

The addition of live music (written and performed by Azita Mehdinejad and Pavel Mezihorak) creates not only an appropriate atmosphere for the Gypsy scenes and movement sequences but also subtly underscores other key moments in the production.

Running at 90 minutes, this is a neat and self-contained tale that provides resolution but also leaves the door open for spin-off stories. It is an enjoyable and light-hearted tale with a darker underbelly that is referenced but never wholly revealed.

There are space restrictions in the venue but the fight scenes are well choreographed and the movement sequences are of a comfortable length for the audience. With a thoughtful set and simple but suitable costumes, the strength of the show lies in the storytelling, which is what folklore is all about.

Reviewer: Amy Yorston

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