STAGE REVIEW: Year of Wonders @ Alphabetti Theatre (26.6.18) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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When you attend a performance at the Alphabetti Theatre you have a certain set of expectations. Theatre Royal it is not – no lavish stage production values, you can hear the water in the pipes every time a tap is turned on. It’s intimate and stark and those not in the know can be disarmed by the venue, but with a bit of research and some careful programming on the part of Alphabetti it can make for a unique theatre going experience. I personally like stripped down theatre – it’s down to the performers to take control of the room, a do or die situation, and with Year of Wonders a strong script by Mike Alfreds and Jane Arnfield (adapted from Geraldine Brooks’ book) the challenge lay at the feet of solo performer and co-writer Arnfield. The challenge was met and an powerful performance suspended belief in this small, basic venue and transported its audience back to a time of death and plague.

Told from the perspective of a survivor who loses nearly everything, the story transports us through the days of the black death from its distant whisper to arrival in small town 17th century Britain. It’s raw and powerful, made all the better from the perspective of our hurting and healing heroine. The depressing drama is equalised well with candid and surprising humour and the agony of loss is captured expertly by Jane Arnfield’s commanding performance. Dense subject matter, high drama and a most basic space make for strange creative bedfellows but Year of Wonders at Alphabetti was a triumph in my eyes.

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