Renowned children’s writer and comedian James Campbell has had a sell-out theatrical debut at Bury St Edmunds.
His much-loved Boyface character came to the Apex in Boyface and the Uncertain Ponies, this month with a cast of 37 local children aged seven to 12. All of the children who took part in last summer’s Boyface Summer School were guaranteed to have a part.
The director, Sam Sharma from Rattlesden, brought an extraordinary set and technical effects to the surreal comic script.
The set included a working quantum chromatic disruption machine from local artists Tamsin Evans and Sarah Chandler, which proved central to moments of beautifully lit high comic drama.
A fortune-telling based on the pattern of fruit in scones from the local café, ‘Scone With The Wind’, and a stable of riders and ponies from Marjorie Indent’s Riding School for Lucky Children, brought beautifully timed and delightfully contained silliness, with something for both adults and children in the enthusiastic audience. The ensemble cast worked brilliantly together, but stand-out performances came from the villain Weird Clown Boy (Preston Lindley), with amazing vocal skills, and the non-speaking character Tartan Badger (Harry Salmons), with a stunning dance routine.
Event highlights included a Stoddenage-on-Sea town sign selfie area in the foyer, and free fatal oranges offered to the audience at the interval. These produced the evil orange aroma as the baddy, Marjorie Indent (Meredith Jones), threatened to destroy the machine with the one colour it cannot stand.
The musician Lewis Hall produced expansive sound effects as well as writing the Boyface musical score – irresistible singalong wittiness in ‘Why Do They Call Him Boyface?’ and ‘There Is Nothing Like A Horse!’
Behind the scenes, the aim of the project was to take both children and parents with no previous experience and put on a play from scratch. The set, props and costumes were produced at almost no cost from old cardboard boxes by parents and friends in a workshop led by talented local theatrical designers and makers.
Sarah Chandler said: “We took art phobics and handy DIY-ers alike and over two weekends created three sets, a dozen ponies and even some cardboard furniture. Art and craft brings people together and we’ve now got a community of enthusiastic makers and doers keen for the next project.”
Sam Sharma said: “Everyone has had such fun taking part. It’s been stressful at times worrying whether it would all be ready on time, but in the end everything came together for a really memorable show.”
The play finally saw a backstage invasion by parents and children to hoist ‘THE END’ in stripes, above the backdrop of the Stoddenage-on-Sea ‘Stripemongers’ shop. But this was just the start; the next production, Boyface and the Sea Donkeys, will be at the Apex next year. Children and parents are advised to book early!
James Campbell is the author of four Boyface books, and books five and six are due out next year.