Brighton college drama teacher and BBC Bursary winner Natalie Sexton has written a challenging and entertaining piece about bullying in school, about guilt, hatred, revenge and reconciliation – and all performed by 10 very young actors/singers/dancers who have more talent than an entire Premiere League side.
From its Annie-like opening chorus about how boring school lessons are, the pupils respond to their unseen teachers with vitality and wit.
Central to the story is Tom (played wonderfully by Eliot Milward) a boy with a facial Harry Potter-like scar and a much deeper inner wound. Mocked by his classmates as a freak, he is the subject of hatred and violence because his school chums blame him for the death by house fire of his younger brother Alfie (played with beauty and grace by what I assume is his real life brother Frankie Milward).
The songs and dialogue seem at times very episodic and arbitrary in how they advance the plot, but all are performed with great enthusiasm and skill by this young cast. There are times when the backing tracks overwhelm the young voices and mar the clarity of their words, but it’s a technical issue that can be solved in the rest of the run.
The major problem with the show is that the story is very one-dimensional and once the basic issue is stated, the story doesn’t truly develop. The reconciliation, when it comes is therefore unconvincing.
That said I think the show has great prospects as a school production that many teachers and youth groups will want to take up.
With some development and re-writing , there could even be another Matilda in the making.
Clara Shepherd-Thompson as Tom’s on-off new friend, and Fleur Aston as the feisty Jessica are outstanding in a largely strong cast. Scout Adams has a powerful presence as Jade but she isn’t given enough to do.
The show runs at Ralli Hall, Hove on various dates in May and ends on 2 June.
THIS BOY TOM by Natalie Sexton
Presented by: JW Productions
Venue: Ralli Hall, 81 Denmark Villas, Hove, East Sussex
Dates: May 13, 17, 21, 24 @ 7pm: May 14 @ 2pm: June 2 @ 11am and 2pm
Reviewer: Brian Butler