Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

Nefairyus

Neil Armstong
Theatre of Moths
Arts Centre Washington, Tyne and Wear
(2011)

Nefairyus publicity image

Theatre of Moths is a new professional company, based at Arts Centre Washington, and Nefairyus is its first production, but it has quite a pedigree, for its director (and writer, and composer) is Neil Armstrong who has been a professional actor (and writer, and director, and musician) in the region since the early 80s, its producer is Christina Berriman Dawson who has been a professional actress since leaving the Northumbria Live Academy in 2005 (where she appeared in Caryl Churchill's Fen at Live Theatre) and its muical director and co-composer is Duncan Allan who has played in many bands throughout the region, beginning his showbiz career at the age of 9 in a panto ditected by Armstrong!

Nefairyus is a triple bill of plays by Armstrong, on one of which he collaborated with Allan. It runs for only two nights and the performance reviewed was the first, so there had been little opportunity to iron out those problems which inevitably occur once an audience arrives. Remarkably there was only one, and that was an equipment failure which caused a delay between the first and second plays. Quick thinking and improvisation saved the day, however, and, although the audience was aware of the delay, it wasn't aware of any lack in the performance, for there was none, merely the lack of some projection..

The plays are linked by a common theme, fairies. Not the romantic, nineteenth century kind with wings and pretty dresses but beings who live alongside humans, albeit hidden, and do intervene in our lives.

The Thirteenth Fairway in introduces us to the Truth Fairy, played with remarkable confidence by 9 year old Emma King, who challenges and then forces Alan (Paul Hartley), serial adulterer and liar in both his personal and business life, to change his ways.

The Fairy Investigation Society, co-written by Armstrong and Allan, is entirely mimed - in places almost danced - and tells the story of the attempt by Baron Hugh "Stuffy" Dowding (Hartley), photographer Alisdair Alpin MacGregor (Charlie Richmond) and Walt Disney (Dawson in Groucho Marks mode) to capture a fairy (11 year old Isobel Donkin) and exhibit her.

Finally, the longest of the three pieces, The Return of the Truth Fairy, tells the story of how, in the depths of the Norfolk Fens, a boggart (Dawson) helps children's author Gordon Frost (Richmond) create his second novel, also called The Return of the Truth Fairy. Or is it? There's a twist in the tail. Frost has been brought to this isolated cottage away from all distractions by his agent, Jack Wiseman (Hartley, looking and sounding very like Rimmer in Red Dwarf) for six weeks.

But, of course, nothing is as it seems. The novel is a great success but Frost has gone against the Boggart's instructions and and the price must be paid: all two million children who read the book go blind. However truth will out...

All three pieces mix humour and seriousness to great effect. The performances are excellent, as one would expect from a cast of this calibre, and the two youngsters rise to the challenge. The plays are, perhaps, a little overwritten but given the shortness of the rehearsal period - the whole thing was produced on a shoestring - that is almost inevitable. A future production would undoubtedly address this.

Tere is no doubt that the audience loved it. A good start for a new company.

Reviewer: Peter Lathan