Four years had passed since we had last devised a play, as a company from scratch, so we decided to return to this style of original storytelling. Inspired by Edward Gorey’s alphabets and John Kenn Mortensen’s Sticky Monsters, we became interested by the fears that adults have for their children being alone in the world.
The result was a strange compilation of children encountering (real or imagined) monsters.
CAST: Katherine Tweed, John Creed, Katie Gale, James Schofield, Adam Morris, Alicia Hobbs, Megan Irwin, Megan Gallagher, Philippa Jeffries, Chloe Luckham, Imogen Hayes, Josh Hitch, Alfie Dickens, Stacey Wilkinson, Aaron Patel, Grace Povey-West, Robyn MacManus, Jake Mawson, Tom Hazeldon, Cara Dunn-Gibson, Carolynne Roberts, Callum Jackson
The Edinburgh Reporter *****
Edinburgh Festival Fringe REVIEW The Curious Case of the Ugglie Wump and Other Mysterious Monsters
Ugglie Wump by Newbury Youth Theatre at the Quaker meeting House is an absolute delight and a consummate ensemble piece. If the enthusiasm, commitment, and talent of this group could be bottled and sold then many another fringe show would be in the market.
With adroit physical theatre and a witty script twenty-five young actors create a monster quest story for children; the monsters, including a giant duck, are sought and dispensed with in the search for the mysterious Ugglie Wump, (with an acknowledged debt to ‘We’re going on a bear hunt’ and similar.)
There are crazy songs and innovative staging which propel the piece to somewhere between Python and Edward Gorey, I gather one new (and very funny) song was added on the day I saw the show, a credit to the bravery of these young performers. The play delves deep into the irrationality of childhood fears, always with great humour (and parents oddly absent), and eventually concludes that monsters in the shadows may not really exist – being merely ‘A little bit of everything you never knew you feared’ – a hint of the emerging adult in the child perhaps, and all the ‘monsters’, real or imagined, that are to come. – By the way those missing parents have fallen down a well of course, …and may even be the Ugglie Wump.
Silly grown ups…Utterly captivating.
Newbury Weekly News
Have you heard of the Ugglie Wump, who lives under the town of Wonky Bracket? Or Hildegard, the tree beast, who turns children into boiled sweets? What about Foliculous, the kelp-bearded sea monster? Surely you’ve heard tales about the mysterious swamp-dwelling Moobies? If not, you must have had a very sheltered childhood.
The children of Wonky Bracket are very aware of the monsters that surround their town – after all, they are a suspicious lot who never wear shoes, despite it having rained constantly on their homes for the last 200 years. And so, when their parents disappear suddenly, the children set off on a monster hunt, in the certainty that one of the fabled beasts must be responsible;
Taking Sticky Monsters, a book of beastly Post-It note line drawings by artist John Kenn Mortensen as inspiration, along with the similarly unsettling artwork of Edward Gorey, Wump was devised entirely by Newbury Youth Theatre members with the support of NYT’s “grown up” theatre practitioners, giving the 25-strong ensemble cast the opportunity to develop their own characters, as both the town’s children and the monsters.
The resulting production allowed ensemble members to demonstrate their strong acting ability and skills at song and dance, with a satisfying streak of well-timed comedy carried through by some cast members, giving relief to what would otherwise be a very dark and scary tale. Things got a little busy up on the Corn Exchange stage at points, but generally the size of the ensemble helped add to the imagery, conjuring up child-swallowing forests and stormy seas through mass movement.
Suitable for children aged six and over, as well as adults who still sleep with the light on, the twisted set and freakishly frightening masks drew heavily on Mortensen and Gorey’s artwork – as did the use of black umbrellas, which pop up regularly in both artists’ drawings.
Having only explored Mortensen and Gorey’s work as a result of Wump, it is clear that NYT have grasped the combination of fear and fun in their drawings, creating a world which is both nightmarish and innocent, as it is never made clear if the monsters of Wonky Bracket really exist, or are creations of the children’s imaginations. Which begs the question: what really did happen to their parents…?
Having won awards and five-star reviews for the last five consecutive years at the Edinburgh Fringe, NYT are taking Wump up to their regular Edinburgh haunt of Venue 40, The Quaker Meeting House, next week from Monday to Saturday.
Hopefully this year’s production will be met with the same plaudits; but whether or not Edinburgh officially acknowledges it, the NYT cast and crew, under the long-term direction of Amy and Tony Trigwell-Jones and artistic director Robin Strapp, should be incredibly proud of an entirely original production and the dark world of childhood nightmares that they have created.