Starseeker

Tim Bowler, adapted by Phil Porter
A Royal and Derngate production
Royal Theatre, Northampton
(2007)

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At last we are presented with a piece of theatre aimed at teenagers that doesn't patronize or pander to - a complex story told beautifully with a touch of the dreamy surrealism often missed in this type of theatre.

The company of five manage to multi-role their way around a collection of characters and a whole host of scenes with a convincing flair. Michael George Moore, who played the role of Luke, the character central to the story, was excellent turning in a committed performance that had the audience sitting in his hand at times.

Starseeker is adapted from Tim Bowler's original novel by Phil Porter. The novel was a Carnegie medal winner and it is easy to see why, with its bright narrative and magical subtext.

The choice to adapt for the stage works to a large degree. There are moments when it feels as though the script attempts to 'pack in' information for the spectator that the reader would have got from the novel. The many scene changes also seemed to upset some of the more magical, still moments. However, none of this takes away from Director Dani Parr's enchanting production.

From Kate Bunce's simple but stunning design of shadow trees and massive colour backgrounds through to Gareth Fry's equally colourful sound design, the production is a success.

The music especially connects beautifully with the story. A fine balance of the modern meeting the classical, Michael George Moore's piano playing, in particular, is a real strength. His talent also shines through the composition of two haunting pieces played at the end of Act One and Act Two. Perhaps the most stunning moment in the play is when the character of Luke plays a piano duet with his Father - a powerful scene that seemed to grip the 'family' audience watching.

Other strong scenes and performances stand out. Tamsin Fessey's portrayal of Barley, for example, is physically subtle and believable. The scene where Barley makes contact with Luke is beautiful and tender.

I attended the second performance of Starseeker and despite some of the scene changes seeming a little behind the pace, the production is well worth the visit - especially as the slow changes can only improve with time.

The Chief Executive of The Royal and Derngate, Donna J Murray revealed that the theatre had been preparing to put Starseeker on before the theatre re-opened. I am glad they persevered, as this production is a small gem that should attract far-reaching attention.

"Starseeker" plays at the Royal and Derngate until Saturday 7th July 2007

Reviewer: John Johnson