Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

Lilly Through the Dark

Devised by the Company
The River People
New Greenham Arts and touring
(2010)

Production photo

Based at The Point in Eastleigh The River People's production of Lilly Through the Dark is an enchanting, delightful and deeply moving story told with loving passion by a talented troupe of actors who richly deserved their Total Theatre Award for best emerging company in 2009.

This Gothic tale, inspired by a real incident, tells the story of Lilly, a young girl who is grief-stricken at the death of her cherished father and journeys to the underworld to try and find him and bring him back.

The inventive set consisting of piles of books which seamlessly morph into bridges, stairs and rooms is atmospherically lit by Laura Cox and perfectly captures the magic of the mysterious world created. The cast emerge from one of the giant books in the centre of the set as if they are climbing out of a story.

Lilly and her father are depicted by beautifully crafted puppets, in the style of Tim Burton. Her odyssey to the Dead Lands is momentous. She encounters a variety of weird characters dressed in shabby Victorian costumes. Claire Harvey who designed the set and puppets plays Alice the story collector. Joseph Bone is the macabre ferryman Rottenpockets who bullies Lilly into his boat to travel along the dark underground river and keep her from reaching the light.

Lilly is desperate to find Mother Moon (Clare Pointing) to help her find her father. Her journey takes her past a bridge that's guarded by two hanging corpses Harry and Brian, hilariously represented by two puppets, with the actors' head appearing through a black cloth and the puppets' body hanging below - very clever stuff. She eventually meets The Willow (Jake Hendriks) who steals memories as Lilly wrestles to remember her father. The ending is both poignant and moving yet offers hope for the future.

Edward Wren, who wrote the poetic script and composed the atmospheric musical score which he plays beautifully on a mandolin, adds a deeper dimension to the play with the themes of grief and despair sensitively explored.

This was a master class in storytelling, beautifully crafted, with first-rate performances throughout. The puppetry was superb. A true Tour de Theatre. Highly recommended.

Their new play The Terrible Tales of the Midnight Curse will be performed at the Bedlam Theatre at the Edinburgh Fringe in August.

Touring to Portsmouth, Bridport, Bracknell, Oxford and Farnham

Sach Voit reviewed this production at the Tristan Bates Theatre in 2009

Reviewer: Robin Strapp