The Glorious Invention of Emmanuel Stork 2017

Following a number of successes working with adaptations and scripts, we realised that we hadn’t devised a production from scratch since The Lost Letters of Mr Corrigan in 2009.

So with that, and copy deadlines looming, we put forward a title and some copy that would read well but be generic enough for us to get away with, more or less anything. Our only rule with the process is that we had to use as much as was humanly possible.

The result was a rip-roaring, raucous adventure…

Cast: Henry Barker, Charlie Christopher, Toby  Davies, Albie Embleton, Gabriel Foley, Rebecca Gennard, Niamh Jones, Mathew Needham, Lauren Marshall, Louisa Mattison, Jake Mavis, Rosie Oliver, Adam Quinn, Toby Quinn, Alex Storey, Adam Taylor.

The 730 Review ****

Like the Young Pleasance, Newbury Youth Theatre come to Edinburgh with a reputation as one of the very strongest youth theatres at the Fringe, sure to deliver diverse, witty and original material. The brilliantly titled The Glorious Invention of Emmanuel Stork is one of their strongest shows in years and features a breadth of talents, from extraordinarily catchy original songs to malleable ensemble-driven movement sequences.

A storytelling masterclass, the young company create a mythical world of forgotten tribes, sea monsters and gibbering giants, amongst which Jack Coleman ventures on a quest to find his lost father. The lost tribe, who could only communicate with Jack through a number of abstract sounds, were particularly well realised, gradually moving towards him in groups, before deferring to their leader. It is very clear that this company have worked together tirelessly to become a tight-knit ensemble, and the results spoke for themselves, with personal favourite moments being group sequences such as these and the creation of physical vessels including a boat for Jack to sail in, achieved with simplicity and painting a real and vivid picture of his adventure.

However, there were also a number of standout individual performances, particularly from the actor playing Jack who showed wide-eyed abandon amidst the madness which frequently erupted around him. Another choice sequence emerged when Jack was met with the bureaucratic telephone helpline and a hilarious workplace boss placed, inexplicably and brilliantly in a dress, giving the brilliantly deranged vibe of a cross-dressing Malcolm Tucker from The Thick of It. It was refreshing in a family-friendly, fantasy-based show to see the plot shot through with everyday characters and situations which we all have to endure on a regular basis.

The show closed out with the catchiest, most memorable piece of music I’m likely to hear at this year’s Fringe, as the entire cast joined a very talented singer/guitarist in a rendition of their original piece ‘Inside a Schmoo’. Devised by the company themselves and written and directed with expertise by Tony and Amy Trigwell-Jones, it was clear that the young actors were entirely invested in their own material and this proved to be utterly infectious. A brilliant blend of fantasy and reality, this is one of the finest family show you could wish for at this year’s Fringe. They close in two days, so catch it while you can.

SGFringe ****

On the face of it, a simple tale – but one with hidden twists and turns, surreal, inventive and fascinating: yet another masterly production from Newbury Youth Theatre.  NYT are into their third decade as a company, are regular and welcome visitors to the Quaker Meeting House [venue 40], and this year offer a show devised completely by the young company, with an entertaining mix of songs, movement, mask work, puppetry, and a light show in this tale told in verse.

Jack Coleman grew up on a mist-shrouded island somewhere in the middle of a remote sea: one day he stole a boat and set off in search of his father.  He perished, or so the islanders say: but now we find out what really happened…

The opening is superb: one actor alone on stage is joined by one cast member after another, and a fascinating and multi-layered sound picture of island life is built up with the simplest of repetitions of phrases, movements, and rhythms.  The inventiveness continues – the islanders become Jack’s boat, and the sea into which he falls.  He is cast up on the shore of another island, whose inhabitants speak and act in very bizarre ways.  Jack learns to communicate with them, and persuades them to help him build a boat in which to continue his search for his father – they join him, but are all engulfed by the dreaded SHMOO which they had warned him lurked offshore.

Inside the SHMOO is a call centre with a complex machine operated by brown-coated workers who are also part of the machine: Jack is handed from person to person without finding any answers to his questions – this is a superb and witty presentation of administrative hell.  Finally he discovers he must leave the SHMOO by the rear exit – when it poos – and he is once more at sea, encountering beautifully twinkling underwater light-fish and three giants who bellow constantly for “MORE!” before finding a white-coated man, another machine, and the revelation of the Glorious Invention of his father, Emmanuel Stork.

The cast have very attractive personalities and continually engage the audience in their actions and words, drawing much laughter from both adults and children at the witty word-play and the fantastical scenarios.  There were some serious messages embedded in the story, highlighting the current obsession with possession, acquisition, and ‘MORE’, and suggesting that the world would be a better place if people concentrated on giving rather than getting.  Full marks to NYT for invention, creativity, talent, confidence, personality, and audience engagement: all of which combine to make an excellent afternoon’s entertainment!

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