Set in the midst of World War 1, This was the World and I was King uses music, movement and puppetry to exhibit the fantasy of storytelling. Whilst battling on the front, Andrew sends his wife and three children to live with their uncle on his farm in the countryside. Whilst away, he stays connected through the stories he writes for his children, to keep their imaginations intact and protect them from the truths of the Western Front.
Narrating from the perspective of a child’s eye is what made this portrayal of the war so effective. David Thackeray brought together a beautiful combination of music, movement and puppetry, capturing the essence of childhood imagination. Moments of movement, as the children were re-enacting their father’s stories, were wonderfully constructed, enhancing the pure joy of the children and naturally expelling this feeling unto the audience. The hand puppetry was simple, playful and gracefully manoeuvred. George Jennings’s compositions, accompanied by the delightful voices and harmonies (particularly that of Joey Dexter, who was simple superb), provided folk music to accompany the story throughout. I only wish the music didn’t have to end; it was powerfully lifting and a superb compliment to the rest of the piece. What I most admired about the music was the rapport between the on-stage musicians and the characters in the story; relationships which carried on into the telling of the tale. It’s very rare that a piece of theatre genuinely makes me smile, however moments of fantasy and imagination made me beam with joy.
Joey Dexter delivered a stand-out performance, making it very easy to fall in love with his character. A talented young performer, Dexter is the perfect example of how generosity on the stage is the strongest asset of a performer. Casey Jay Andrews blended suitably with Dexter, both from a vocal and performance perspective. They were both a joy to watch and listen to. Lewis Clarke offered some lovely moments, although a little more definition with his younger Alexander would have been nice to see. Laura Hannawin, as the driving force of the storytelling narrative, went for the cliché stereotypes of a young girl; however, her energy was en point, allowing for some lovely moments of physicality.
Laura Trundle floated seamlessly from present to past, with a focus and determination that, at first I wasn’t sure about, but once settled I realised worked perfectly. Trundle and Dexter shared a beautiful moment of young love, which gently transcended the piece making their relationship a pleasure to see grow.
Oliver Grant, Steve McCourt and Lucy Peacock supported well; Grant’s violin playing was delightful. McCourt and Peacock’s moment of physical contact, whilst reading their letters to each other from afar, was filled with gentle emotion and created a perfect display of their passion for each other.
This was the World and I was King tells a beautiful story about children during the war and the power of imagination and fantasy; certainly not original, but nevertheless delightful, with the poetry of Robert Louis Stevenson to assist the telling of the tale. The sounds created a surrounding of crashing serenity throughout, with a wooden set, built inside this black box theatre, to take an audience deep into the imaginations of their inner-children.
Review by Joseph Winer
HookHitch Theatre Company presents This was the World and I was King by Casey Jay Andrews and Nathan Foad
composed by George Jennings
Rediscover the unbridled imagination of childhood in this transporting story of courage, kindness, and bravery, with rousing live folk music and hand carved puppets. With their father in peril on the Western Front, the Connor children turn to their imagination for a comforting distraction from reality. Their spell-binding make believe kingdom comes to life on-stage as they set sail on impossible adventures.
It is a heartening tale of the bitter-sweet remembrance of childhood. The play celebrates a generation of war-time children who had no option but to grow up quickly, and confront the demons beyond their world of innocence.
This was the World and I was King features the enchanting poetry of Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses.
Venue: The Jack Studio Theatre
410 Brockley Road, London, SE4 2DH
The Brockley Jack Studio Theatre
Tuesday 2 February to Saturday 20 February 2016
Performances at 7.45pm