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The Burning of the Boats; a review!


A music theatre piece with music by David Burridge and story and libretto by Martin Riley.

A BIG REVEAL PRODUCTION at Northbourne Park School.

Sunday June 23rd 2019.

This engaging production was both an act of celebration and defiance: celebration of just what can be achieved when a community of performers forgets about professional or amateur status and simply co-operates and defiance of the dismal legacy of Michael Gove and his successors at the Department of Education who have done their best to crush any creativity in young people!

The Burning of the Boats tells the story of a Deal smuggling family and their plight when, in 1784 the then Prime Minister, William Pitt the younger, ordered the burning of boats on the beach in an attempt to eradicate illegal contraband. (I wonder what his solution to the ‘back stop’ would be?). The performance brought together a cast of fine actor/singers with children’s choirs from The Downs C. of E. Primary School and Northbourne Park School; adult choir with singers from the Manwood Singers, Deal and Walmer Handelian Society, Landmark Singers and Pharos Choir and the superb Revelation Strings with guest wind and percussion players. These huge forces were marshalled brilliantly by director Matthew Sharp and musical director David Burridge.

A sports hall is not necessarily the most sympathetic environment in which to stage a show but, in this case, it provided the size and sense of adventure for such an ambitious and varied production. On the central stage the compelling story was acted out with real sensitivity and focus and we were drawn into the desperate plight of the poor and the pathos of a pair of young lovers who preferred to flee for a better life than stay to perpetuate their families’ illegal way of making a living. The strong, operatic moments were beautifully handled both vocally and theatrically.

Supporting the main action were the various groups of chorus: even though they had to contend with difficult acoustics and sight-lines they bought a richness and sense of vibrant musical colour to the performance and the playing of the orchestra was invariably exhilarating and dramatic.

This was the second time that this cleverly crafted piece has had public performances: its first appearance was at the Deal Festival in 2013 and it certainly deserves to be seen and heard over and over again. Such a celebration of the power of the arts to enrich lives has never been more needed nor more lovingly presented.

Ken Pickering

(Hon.Professor of Drama. University of Kent)

Pictured from left to right Jennifer Brisk (Lydia) Evie Brown (Betsy) Peter Tullo (Tobias) Louis Zegrean (Sam) Matthew Sharp (Thomas) Jakob Taylor (Big Mickey)

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