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A review by Vanessa Bunn for EXTRA! EXTRA!

 

 

 

 

Golden Age Theatre present

The School of Light

 

by Ian Dixon-Potter and Robert Pope

 

Directed by Linda Miller

Set and Costume Design by Andy Robinson

Lighting and Sound Design by Janet A Cantrill

Movement Choreography by Chris Cumming

Stage Management by Fiona McKeon

 

White Bear Theatre

11- 29 August, 2015

 

Clean-cut, backpack-carrying Harry (Dan Maclane) mistakenly becomes the token sceptic at an astrology group meeting, having erroneously believed he was attending an astronomy session. The School of Light meet regularly to exchange ideas about everything from the healing power of crystals to the possibility of interacting with the departed. Each member has their own area of special interest. The ringleader, Tarquin, (Martyn Stanbridge) has some additional preoccupations, namely the collection of generous donations for participation and the amorous affections of the radiant Sunflower (Yuna Shin).

Before Dan stumbles upon the eclectic party of spiritual explorers we get a look at each of their personalities and find that they all fit some cliché or other. Celia (Jessica Hawkesley) has been left financially comfortable through divorce but her emotional wellbeing seems to have been less well looked after and the group appears to offer her some much needed company. Sunflower is the affectionate, naïve, hippy sort who’s young and pretty enough to get away with the suggestion of payment in kind in place of the donation which is compulsory for everyone else. Keith (Eden Ford) is an enthusiastic believer in the supernatural and is fully convinced that we have regular extraterrestrial visitors. This is evidenced undeniably for him by the crop circles he studies. The Master (Nicholas Koy Santillo) is a lovable goth-figure with a moody demeanour and a hammed-up penchant for the macabre.

The School of Light is set in a genuinely calming space. Cream scatter cushions and colourful mats cover the floor around a small table in the middle of the room which is useful during presentations. There’s ambient music, bells and crystals and Tarquin looks the part in neutrally coloured loose linens. The audience sit on a single line of benches which span the periphery. The characters all remain on the stage throughout once they’ve arrived. Celia gets thrown the intimacy that Tarquin can spare after Sunflower. Jokes about the cool appeal of spirituality are batted about frequently, as when The Master notes that Celia’s apparently rare and wonderful Ouija board was available at Glastonbury. The writers have cleverly set Harry up as the character most easy to empathise with but given him a sort of complexity and fear that makes it impossible to outright deny the notions held dear by the rest and indeed their respective reasons for wanting something to hold on to.

Under the jealous gaze of supposed free-love devotee, Tarquin, and the rolling eyes of the others, Sunflower and newcomer Harry bond over the discussions and even the arguments raised in the group as a result of the sceptical imposter. Comical, pacy and thought-provoking, The School of Light is the kind of considered offering I’ve come to expect from the excellent White Bear Theatre.

 

 

White Bear Theatre
138 Kennington Park Rd
Kennington, London, SE11 4DJ
Tickets: £14.00 (£12.00 conc.)
Phone sales: 0844 8700 887
www.whitebeartheatre.co.uk
 
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