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52-54 Kennington Oval, London, SE11 5SW
020 7582 7680
Ovalhouse is a lively theatre and arts centre based on the Kennington Oval right opposite the famous cricket ground. We provide a warm welcome to our audience members, practitioners, patrons and workshop members.
We're open Monday to Saturday, with performances in our two theatres on Tuesday to Saturday. During the weekdays the spaces are open for rehearsals and hires from 10am. Our youth classes operate Monday to Saturday during term times.
REVIEW by Mumsnet Merton: Strawberry Vale seen at Ovalhouse Theatre on 2nd July 2016.
Great for teens and families with older children
This is a richly challenging and computer-contemporised coming of age drama with which audiences young and old can identify. The universality of the journey of life is one narrative we all share, although this one is brought bang up-to-date, in a way that only the Millennials and subsequent generations can truly identify: against a digitally driven landscape. The brevity of the thirty minute attention holding show guarantees appeal to even the most easily bored of teens and tweens, more used to the short, action-packed cultural medium of TV shows.
The play deftly propels a defiantly reluctant to-grow-up teen, Gin, thro' the angst of adolescence as she falters on the brink of adulthood. Conflicted between letting go of her childhood (symbolically represented by her cuddly teddy) to embrace the responsibility of growing up (a Maths revision aide could not more starkly suggest why transitioning would not be appealing!), Gin resolves to enjoy ‘just one more day' doing as she pleases as a child: playing a video game – Strawberry Vale - and chilling in the cocoon-like comfort of her bedroom. Yet, ironically, digital distraction does nothing to delay the ‘journey' she is on, as she finds herself on ‘level one' of a quest thro' a bleakly desolate, ‘black and white', joyless world where the few grown-ups she meets are, in their own ways, trying to turn back time (reflecting her own inescapable subconscious desire).
The initial detached objectivity of an ‘at one remove' fly-on-the-wall film sequence (introducing us to Gin and her dad), to her emergence into ‘the reality of her predicament' (as a physical presence on the stage) in the cocoon-like safety of her bedroom, and subsequently her projection into a dream-like immersive digital gaming world - Strawberry Vale – is cleverly done, reflecting the way in which we all (not just teenagers) try to cope with our fears and change.
With an original music score beautifully underpinning Gin's ‘flight' across the barren landscape of Strawberry Vale ‘level one', there was more than a nod to one of the best-beloved animations of yesteryear - The Snowman - which also deals with the subject of loss.
Supported on stage with less than a handful of physical props, Jessica Kathryn as Gin, captivated attention from beginning to end. With little dialogue, and a cast of ‘screen projected' walk-on characters (including the clockmaker, old lady, rats, buzzing bee and crow), mime mesmerised and magically drew the audience from the auditorium into the ‘other world' of the computer game.
Gin's level one culminated in a spooky walk thro' the undergrowth to emerge into a field and an encounter with a colourfully red, rag-dolly (almost scarecrow like) girl ‘child' leaving the audience with plenty of questions, no answers and a burning desire to move on to the next level but ‘on pause' until ‘Strawberry Vale' returns as an extended play at some future date.
Integral to the immersive experience was to ask for the audience's views on ‘Strawberry Vale' which is still a work in production, albeit one that already excellently raises the bar for theatrical originality. So be sure to look out for a revised and extended ‘edition' of this daringly different digital drama. It truly does offer an engaging way to introduce our teens and tweens to a traditional cultural medium with a 21st Century ‘spin' with which they can identify.
PS. If you like the sound of this, the company behind this quirky but poignant and richly memorable play on a gaming platform ((9 Grams of Moon) are currently working on 'level two', the extended version. Watch this space for more info soon.
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