Sinbad the Sailor, Norwich

Attendance at a performance of a production by the Theatre Royal Junior Arts Course should be mandatory for actors, directors and musical directors across the county.

By JOHN LAWSON

Attendance at a performance of a production by the Theatre Royal Junior Arts Course should be mandatory for actors, directors and musical directors across the county.

For any actor who thinks he has earned the right to tread the boards, this company of eight to 20-year-olds will send him scuttling back to review his outlook on confidence, delivery and focus from the moment the curtain rises.

For directors, the productions offer an object lesson in pace and movement – no mean feat when you are trying to manoeuvre a cast of over 100 on and off stage, but something that director David Lambert achieves seamlessly.


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For musical directors it presents the determination never to compromise in the face of difficult music and fiendishly complex lyrics. Rehearse, rehearse and rehearse again until everybody is word and note perfect.

Andrew Fletcher had made a rod for his own back – he had written the music and lyrics for Sinbad The Sailor himself. But his drilling of his young cast was so thorough it never looked like doing him any damage.

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And that level of preparation extended to every corner of the company. I have seen a good many adult professional first nights that came nowhere close to achieving the same level of assurance.

The Theatre Royal's courses have regularly provided new talent for the big drama schools nationwide and the latest crop on show clearly have more heading the same way.

From such a “cast of thousands”, and a true ensemble achievement it is almost a shame to name names – but there were some lovely performances large and small.

Gareth Hinsley as the evil Vazar was arguably the pick of them all, delivering his lines with a malevolent relish in the style of Jeremy Irons in the Lion King.

Peter Stickney was wonderful as a Pythonesque Old Man of the Sea, with Hayley Thompson a similarly Terry Jones-like figure at the sea witch Salea.

Then we had a Denise Van Outen version of the Jinn of the Magic Ring from Charlotte Wren, and David Marshland hamming it up Gilbert and Sullivan-style as the Caliph of Baghdad.

Add the hero and heroine, Tim Bell and Lydia Surtees, Sophie Aldidge's neurotic aunt, Nicholas Phillips' pirate chief and a great little cameo from Sophie Whitpen as the Priestess and you had a show with much to enjoy – David Lambert's script packed with great one-liners which gave the audience some real laugh-out-loud moments.

t Sinbad plays until Saturday August 4 – go and see it. Box office: 01603 630000.

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