Review: 1549 - The Story of Kett’s Rebellion, Norwich Arts Centre
- Credit: supplied by Simon Floyd
The tragic tale of Kett's Rebellion is recast in a superb and ingenious stage production, says Eve Stebbing.
1549: The Story of Kett's Rebellion
Norwich Arts Centre
Director Simon Floyd brings this superb show back for another run.
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Musical theatre, pantomime, storytelling, reportage, comedy - all play their part as the emotional story unfolds.
When the common land was enclosed in 1549, the people of Norfolk took their anger to Robert Kett, a Wymondham landowner. After listening to their concerns, Kett surprised everyone by taking their side and leading them into rebellion. According to contemporary reports, 15,000 people stood by Kett. Had the uprising been successful, it could have changed the course of English history, sweeping us towards a social democracy that was hugely in advance of the politics of the age. As we all know, the result was disappointment and tragedy.
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But an enthusiastic audience at the Norwich Arts Centre proved that the idealism that inspired this movement is still alive and kicking.
When I first saw the show to the rainy backdrop of Norwich Castle in 2016, it was played by the amateur cast of The Common Lot who were 30 strong. Their hilarious ad libs were anarchic.
This time, it's a cast of five professionals who play the roles, with Kev O'Connor providing 'accordion and vital support'.
The script, which Floyd co-wrote with Karl Minns, has been given some judicious tweaks and tucks by the two writers. It runs at one hour and fifteen minutes, and the action romps along at quite a lick.
Music by Charlie Caine carries much of the narrative, with one or two numbers taken from original songs by Bill Jones. The choral power of the singers packs a real punch, and acclaim should also be given to assistant director Mags Chalcraft.
Paul Preston Mills constructs an ingenious set (from an original idea by Nikk Turnham). Sticks and rough-hewn fence posts frame the stage, moving about with the story and even acting as percussion.
The performances meld together very well and there's never any sense of confusion in the multi-part playing. This confident team has a great story to tell.