The Wicker Husband at The Watermill, Bagnor, until Saturday, March 26. Review by ROBIN STRAPP.
The premiere of The Wicker Husband at the Watermill Theater was brought to an abrupt end on press night on March 2020 due to government Covid restrictions.
So, it was an absolute delight to see this magical production return to the stage for a short run, it ends on Saturday.
Performed by a multi-talented 15 strong cast of actor / musicians, this heart-warming story is told with sincerity and enthusiasm and is a sheer joy to watch.
Ursula Jones’ moving short story has been sympathetically adapted into this inspiring folk musical by Rhys Jennings, with a vibrant musical score from Darren Clark.
Anna Kelsey’s enchanting set creates a rural idyll dominated by a huge willow tree. But all is not well in this small close-knit community where outsiders are ostracized. In particular the poor fish seller who they call the Ugly Girl, a feisty performance by Gemma Sutton.
She seeks solace from the willow tree, confiding her innermost thoughts under the security of its spreading branches. However, her life di lei is about to change forever when she meets the mysterious Old Basket Maker.
Julian Forsyth gives an impressive commanding performance in the role with a rich singing voice.
The Ugly Girl persuades him to make her a ‘Wicker Husband’. This larger than life-sized puppet, designed and built by Finn Caldwell is skilfully operated by Nisha Anil and Sebastian Charles. George Maguire’s beguiling singing brings him to life.
The jealous villagers plan a vicious plot to thwart the love the girl feels for her wicker husband that brings disastrous results that they will come to regret.
Davina Moon plays the devious Tailor’s wife with Jack Quarton as her henpecked husband.
By contrast, the vivacious Cobbler’s wife (Angela Caesar) and her assertive husband (Joe Alessi) cause havoc.
Joining in the conspiracy is the exuberant Innkeeper (Johnathan Charles) and his spirited wife (Claire-Marie Hall).
The exuberant choreography (Steven Harris) is infectious with music under MD Pat Moran’s secure direction.
This triumphant production weaves its magic on the audience and is inventively directed by Charlotte Westenra. Story telling at its best.