Honk! Chelmsford Young Generation
Performed in the Cramphorn Theatre, Chelmsford on Thursday 19th April 2012.
Director: Jeremy Tustin
Musical Director: Bryan Cass
Based on Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale of The Ugly Duckling Honk! is a wonderfully colourful and lively musical that accommodates a huge number of named parts and seems ideal for young people. And yet the contemporary dialogue could easily lend itself to a different production with an emphasis on more adult themes.
This intriguing duality gives this show an extra kick for the reviewer and warrants exploration by mainstream societies.
In the hands of CYGAMS Honk! was a delightful morality tale that included some very affecting songs (Different and Every Tear a Mother Cries spring to mind) as well as some extremely funny ones (Play With Your Food and Warts and All), all performed extremely well. The use of Northern accents for the main duck family conveniently located the action to some mythical place beyond the Watford Gap (would Yorkshire-based directors impose Essex accents on its cast?) and allowed us to suspend belief for two hours, while injecting warmth into the characterisation.
The costumes and scenery, especially the hatching eggs, completed the translocation. The noticeably upper-crust vowels of the Cat (superbly played by Luke Higgins) denoted him as dangerous and untrustworthy while the exaggerated Standard English of Greylag (a smaller but fun role played by James Bantock), together with his moustache and costume merely signalled silliness. How fascinating are our perceptions of character and the links with vocal inflections.
There are too many parts to comment on them all individually but Bart Lambert as Ugly was excellent. His innocence, sense of wonder and vulnerability belied his inner strength, which became obvious following the transformation. His voice was always strong and clear and as a character he was always believable.
Sophie Walker as Ida also excelled. She mastered the emotion of her part, either as fierce defender of her son against all comers or as the eternal optimist who never gives up hope whatever the odds.
I loved Sam Toland’s Drake, played as a Teddy boy/father archetype who prefers the idea of children to the reality of hard work.
Choreography and movement generally on this small stage was very well done, the scene changes were seamless and the musical accompaniment from the three piece combo provided just enough sound and never overwhelmed the company.
Honk! deserved a bigger audience and I hope Young Gen does not judge success only by its bottom line since this was a great show artistically and one which the young cast and audience seemed to be thoroughly enjoying.
Reviewer: Stewart Adkins, Regional representative – NODA East District 8