Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings


Chardonnay (right) no doubt leading a friend astray

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Stars

Stage2 Youth Theatre

Crescent Theatre


The vicar probably knew he was on a loser with his class of Yorkshire schoolchildren when his parable of the lost sheep and the good shepherd descended into a discussion on the merits or otherwise of ovine breeds.

Apparently, had the good shepherd, struggling to find pasture in Palestine a couple of thousand years ago, been tending Herdwicks there would have been no problem as one of the flock wouldn’t have wandered off in the first place according to the sheep savvy pupil played by Amit Mevorach.

It was probably at this point that the good vicar, played by Alexander Butler, was wondering if he might have been better employed in something easier, perhaps winding treacle on bobbins for instance.

Director Liz Light successfully adapted former teacher and school inspector Gervase Phinn’s A Wayne in a Manger – his anecdotes of school nativity plays – last year and, in another world premiere, brings another collection of his favourite inspector’s tales from the Yorkshire Dales’ schools to the stage.

It perhaps doesn’t have the same appeal or focus of that universal favourite, the school nativity play, but still has some gems out of the mouths of babes and children as Gervase, once again played in his laid back, slightly amused style by George Bandy, carries out his inspection.

Maya Bennett is once again the head with harassed teachers Thomas Browning, Emily Cremins, Jazz Davies, Roni Mevorach, Murriam Murtaza and returning, with new broom in hand, caretaker Robert Fretwell.


Then there are their adversaries, sorry, pupils. We have Dominic, played by Louis Delany, who can mend a tractor, mend fences and stone walls, calve and lamb, but would struggle to read or write any of that.

Except he writes the most moving and cleverly constructed blank verse, a masterful example of powerful, repetitive brevity . . . until he explains that Phinn is reading his repetitions of his teacher’s spelling corrections.

Then there is Chardonnay, played with exquisite timing by Daisy Wilkes whose favourite part of school, she declares, is going home.

She is more at home lambing than school but, surprisingly, reads poetry. The surprised delight Phinn feels quickly evaporates, however, when she tells him she doesn’t like reading or poetry but if she has to read, then poems are shorter than stories.

She them proceeds to read some poem or other with interminable verses each ending, ironically, with Oh What joy they bring as she jabs each syllable with a finger reading in a slow, staccato style that could put Mogadon out of business. A little comic gem. As for her favourite part of lambing . . . perhaps you need to be a high Dales sheep farmer, with a strong stomach, to understand.

There is the little girl who draws a road studded with precious stones, explaining proudly it is a jewel carriageway, or the little lad with a secret ingredient in his jam tart – who would have thought kneading pastry was such a good hand cleanser? Then the little lad who asks for a biscuit and is told to add the magic word. He thinks for a moment, then with a flash of inspiration, announces “abracadabra!”.


Not that it is all children mind. There is the teacher who fobs kids off, or the child who tells Phinn they hardly ever paint but were told they had to do it today because the inspector was coming.

There is the teacher who dominates her class, demanding enthusiasm in the presence of the inspector, screaming that the class has fun, “don’t you!. Only for a dissenting little Oliver, played by Felix Hack-Myers to declare: “I must have been away that day”.

Then there is Ms Mevorach, whose lessons rival War and Peace in longevity, at least to those who endure them, who, in frustration at yet another interruption of her glacial flow, declares, perhaps with unintended accuracy: “Every time I open my mouth, some idiot speaks!”

Not that it is all at school, a little lad played by Joseph Hack-Myers, created a new popcorn flavour all on his own, movie style sweet and snot, when he got a piece stuck up his nose at the cinema with his father, played by Elijah Dix.

Removal required a trip to A&E where the obliging doctor, Yami Keva, gave him the newly released popcorn as a souvenir – which, he explains to mum played by, Violette Townsend Sprigg, he promptly ate.

Or there is Benedict, played by Joel Flemming, sounding like a pre-pubescent Alan Bennett, who waylays Phinn in a corridor for a discussion deep into the territory occupied normally only by old men, before offering to “do lunch sometime”.

The piece is full of examples of the idiosyncrasies and apparent lunacies of childhood words and deeds familiar to any parent or grandparent, who all have their favourite tales to tell of their own offspring.

It is an evening full of little asides, one liners and short scenes yet despite the relentless pace, Light gives each moment time and space with poems, laughs and remarks a plenty with some delightful cameo pieces from the excellent 20 strong class.

As always with Stage2 there is unbounded enthusiasm and the ensemble pieces are well drilled with classes of Dales’ children running on as a seeming mob to form effortlessly into regimented rows where they move in unison like a murmation of starlings. Everyone knows their place, and everyone is a class pupil, even chattering like pupils – or teachers – off script to avoid pauses or silences when moving into position or heading on or off stage. At Stage2 anyone on stage has to be someone, not just a body making up numbers.

A mention too for a fair stab at North Yorkshire accents to add authenticity to the tale. It is not all just fun though, it ends with a hint of a school concert opening with the Sweet Shop Rap from Ben Pietroni as a visiting poet.

Then came young violinists Hemal and Roma Pailan in a Bach-like, Baroque arrangement by Hemal of, appropriately enough, Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. Young they may be, with an instrument difficult to master, but there is no doubting Hemel’s talent in composing his own variation.

Finally, it was hair down time with a rock version of Dancing in the Street with a nice brass section comprising Lauren Brine (cornet), Ben Pietroni again (trumpet) and Toby Painter (sax) along with Paul Parker-Duber and Joel Fleming on guitars, Carmel Mevorach on keyboard, George Lawson-Bennett on bass and Joseph Hack-Myers on drums.

Bandy and Bennett danced on with the vocals with Olivia Grant-Bryson, Yami Keva, Daisy Wilkes and Felix Lawrence-Pietroni doo-wapping along as backing singers, to be joined by the full cast in a celebration of an entertaining evening’s entertainment. To 21-04-18

Roger Clarke


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