Balancing ensemble storytelling with live music and simple staging, The Silver Sword takes the audience from moments of high drama to laugh out loud comic relief and heart-wrenching emotion. There were more than a few wiping away tears when the house lights came up on press night!
Based on the 1956 novel by Ian Serraillier, this is a compelling tale of four children’s struggle to survive in the aftermath of the Second World War. The Balicki family is torn apart when their parents are arrested in Nazi-occupied Warsaw. Not knowing whether their parents have survived, Ruth, Edek , Bronia and their orphan friend Jan must embark on a journey across Europe to discover their fate.
Susie McKenna’s new adaptation for Sell A Door Theatre Company is gripping from start to finish. Drawing on the traditions of oral storytelling, the script takes the audience in to the world of the travelling storyteller. The staging is simple yet effective with the blend of digital projection and live action working harmoniously. As a piece of new music theatre, The Silver Sword is superb, with an evocative musical score composed by Stephen Edis flowing seamlessly from comic ballad to haunting lullaby.
The actor-musicians making up the majority of the cast add to this seamless quality, playing many roles between them and switching effortlessly between characters as much as they change their instruments. The vocal ability and musicianship onstage is sublime, as is the versatility and strong acting in the lead performances from Rachel Flynn (Ruth), Tom Mackley (Jan), Oliver Buckner (Edek) and Catrin Connellan (Bronia). All this combined makes for a truly captivating evening.
But the power of the production lies in more than the staging and excellent performances. The parallels of the story of the four young refugees with the current refugee crisis does not go unnoticed with the audience. There is a poignant underlying message of taking time to listen to a traveller’s story to uncover the truth. Yet the production manages to relay this message without seeming overtly political. Rarely does a piece of theatre cover a topical issue so subtly and convey a message so well to all ages in its audience.
Sell A Door Theatre Company’s principal aim is to provide exciting theatre for young adult audiences and this is one production I would love to see again sitting in an audience of secondary school students. I am keen to see how their reaction differs from the mixed family audience of this evening and hear their responses to themes and messages of the story. Engaging, beautifully crafted and with a strong message at its heart The Silver Sword is the sort of theatre we should be producing and championing to young audiences across the UK and beyond.
The Silver Sword is about to embark on a UK tour - make the journey to see it.
Playing at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry until 3 October.
Playing at The Old Rep, Birmingham from 22 to 24 October.
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