Players Review: Bert

( Molly Poppins – Practically Perfect in Every Way. )

Hi Molly, could tell me something about you and Mary Poppins that has absolutely nothing to do with this show?

Mary Poppins was my favourite film as a child, but I was only ever allowed to watch thirty minutes an evening (hippy parents were highly suspicious of television). Because of this the birth of my little brother was a momentous occasion in myself and Mary’s relationship, for while my mum gave birth in our kitchen I was allowed to watch the entire film. Twice. I has remained a firm favourite.

Wow, I didn’t think you would actually do it… How is this relevant?

Surely this insignificant anecdote proves that I am qualified to comment on this latest offshoot of Mary Poppins magic? Remember that if you say it loud enough you’ll always sound precocious!

Right. Well, do you wanna tell us about it now?

Bert is a charming production, penned by Will Penswick and directed by the man himself together with the wonderful Miss Ciara Flemming. It plays at 1pm in Players every day this week as part of the Freshers Festival. This reimagining of popular childhood fictional characters including Mary Poppins and Bert leaves the original innocence behind, telling a darker tale from loveable chimney sweeps’ perspective. Set in and around the First World War the play collides innocence and violence effectively, delivering an episodic insight into a life not-so-chim-chim-cheery.

The Freshers Festival is an opportunity for new Players members to act in shows under the loving tutelage and guidance of some of the society’s friendliest veterans. The delightful Mr and Mrs Flemswick (as they prefer to be known) succeeded in this masterfully, using a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down and delivering a gorgeous show along the way. It is clear that the cast have a real pride in their show and love performing this well-crafted piece.  Bert is a great showcase of new talents with strong acting across the ensemble, with standouts including the focused and beautifully nuanced performance of Eliza Belward as Mary, and the earnest comic timing of Dillon Hennessy as Michael.

A robin feathering his nest has very little time to rest, and neither it seems have the talented designers of this show. The staging is simple yet creative, and is held together by a ghostly and cohesive design. This show really shines in the aesthetic department with a richly detailed stage design by Anya Kozina (featuring a fabulous bed) and thoughtfully detailed costumes, in a whimsical pastel palette, designed by Ellen Kirk. This was complemented by a sophisticated lighting design from visiting students Sam Becci and Michael Donnay, perhaps a next generation of Trinity lighting talent. Kozina’s set and Grace Nuttall’s AV design combined to create an ethereal installation, where footage appeared to move and breath in 3D, proving that AV can be a dynamic part of the overall design, rather than a video playing on a white rectangle.

While the chronology and narrative was a times a little difficult to follow, Penswick’s writing shows real flair for the construction of theatrical narrative, historical engagement and pop cultural commentary. Overall, I would say this show flies like a kite, up to the highest height, achieving an overall standard that I have never before seen in Freshers Fest.

The winds in the east, mist coming in, so make sure you catch it before it’s gone!

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