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

lecture head

A fallible lecture


Crescent Theatre


SO English literature, apparently, started on a sunny afternoon in 1386 with an assorted collection of tourists on a package pilgrimage to Canterbury telling bawdy tales.

Bawdy being the word for racy stuff then as opposed to just plain mucky for racy stuff now.

So the basis of English literature, according to author Brian Patten, is a collection of dirty jokes collected by Geoffrey Chaucer, as explained in highly amusing detail by the talented cast of Stage2 youth theatre..

This is a sort of Reduced Shakespeare Company Complete Works of English, except of course Stage2 do not do reduced, everything is full on and with a cast of thousands, or in this case 36, who took us on a whirlwind journey through the annals of English Literature with 45 writers in all from A to Z with writers such as Aphra Behn, one of the first English women to make a living as a writer, to Birmingham born poet Benjamin Zephaniah, all wrapped up in a world premiere.

The enthusiasm of the young cast is infectious and the attention to detail demanded by director Liz Light produces a performance which makes time fly. There are times when the only difference between amateur and professional is that no one gets paid, and this was one of them.

The entire cast are on stage all the time and, perhaps a hallmark of Stage2, no one is ever there to make up the numbers, or to be stage dressing or scenery. Everywhere you look there are animated discussions, shows of support or dissent, in short, acting. All the world’s a stage – particularly on stage!


From Chaucer we leap to Shakespeare, starting with Titus Andronicus, little performed these days, which makes today’s gory horror film look like Peppa Pig, and then his paranoid Prince, Hamlet, with its death count to rival Midsomer Murders.

There was Milton and Paradise Lost and Regained and on through the romantic poets, the big six, William Blake, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley and John Keats, some of whom seemed to have a penchant for dying tragically young in Italy.

And who could forget Mary Shelly and Frankenstein, written when she was 19. The novel is a morality tale – its offspring on screen creating a genre all of its own from horror to comedy.

There was an interesting contrasting rendition of Blake’s Jerusalem by the whole company, first as a raucous almost punk version then, about face and a beautifully sung second verse.

Then we had the battle of the ladies, North v South, Jane Austin and the Brontes or more esoteric, the Pre-Raphaelites and Christine Rossetti. It would be unfair to pick out individuals, they all were worthy of mention so a cast list is included for the record – with just one of the many characters cast members played listed – but there is an exception.

Due to a family bereavement Rosie Nisbet, down as backstage manager, had to step in literally hours before with no rehearsal and script discreetly in hand. If we had not been told, we would never have known and her a capella singing of Rossetti’s In the Bleak Midwinter was flawless.

There was a moving section of war poets Brooke and Owen when the overhead screen came into its own then the battle of the heavyweights with Dylan Thomas and Under Milkwood set in Llareggub (say it backwards to see the spirit of Chaucer lives on) and T S Elliot with his cats.


Laurie Lee was given an airing when we discover his drink of choice was Ruddles rather than cider – Ruddles with Rosie, we were told, did not have the same ring. It could have been worse of course, Old Speckled Hen, or even Owd Roger – which would have had echoes of Chaucer again.

Then there was DH Lawrence, and Sir John Betjeman, Ted Hughes, Philip Larkin and the Liverpool poets, of which Patten was one, along with Roger McGough and Adrian Henri to the present day.

Chaucer’s tales of debauchery, the first literotica, are still being told, and are still on exam syllabuses, as are the other 45 literary luminaries contributing in their small way to this engaging lecture.

A whirlwind ride through Eng Lit, funny, at times illuminating, and always entertaining all in a black box space with minimal set and props. It shows a different side to Stage2 and like on a diamond it is a new facet that shines just as much as the rest. To 16-04-16

Roger Clarke


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