Performing in the BBC Pink Tent at Edinburgh Fringe
The Curious Case of the Ugglie Wump And Other Mysterious Monsters, presented by Newbury Youth Theatre, at The Corn Exchange, Newbury on Saturday, July 27
HAVE you heard of the Ugglie Wump, who lives under the town of Wonky Bracket? Or Hildegard, the tree beast, who turns children into boiled sweets? What about Foliculous, the kelp-bearded sea monster? Surely you’ve heard tales about the mysterious swamp-dwelling Moobies? If not, you must have had a very sheltered childhood.
The children of Wonky Bracket are very aware of the monsters that surround their town - after all, they are a suspicious lot who never wear shoes, despite it having rained constantly on their homes for the last 200 years. And so, when their parents disappear suddenly, the children set off on a monster hunt, in the certainty that one of the fabled beasts must be responsible.
Taking Sticky Monsters, a book of beastly Post-It note line drawings by artist John Kenn Mortensen as inspiration, along with the similarly unsettling artwork of Edward Gorey, “Wump” was devised entirely by Newbury Youth Theatre members with the support of NYT’s “grown up” theatre practitioners, giving the 25-strong ensemble cast the opportunity to develop their own characters, as both the town’s children and the monsters.
The resulting production allowed ensemble members to demonstrate their strong acting ability and skills at song and dance, with a satisfying streak of well-timed comedy carried through by some cast members, giving relief to what would otherwise be a very dark and scary tale. Things got a little busy up on The Corn Exchange’s stage at points, but generally the size of the ensemble helped add to the imagery; conjuring up child-swallowing forests and stormy seas through mass movement.
Suitable for children aged six and over, as well as adults who still sleep with the light on, the twisted set and freakishly frightening masks drew heavily on Mortensen and Gorey’s artwork - as did the use of black umbrellas, which pop up regularly in both artists’ drawings. Having only explored Mortensen and Gorey’s work as a result of “Wump”, it is clear that NYT have grasped the combination of fear and fun in their drawings, creating a world which is both nightmarish and innocent, as it is never made clear if the monsters of Wonky Bracket really exist, or are creations of the children’s imaginations. Which begs the question: what really did happen to their parents...?
Having won awards and five-star reviews for the last five consecutive years at the Edinburgh Fringe, NYT are taking “Wump” up to their regular Edinburgh haunt of Venue 40, The Quaker Meeting House, from Monday, August 5 to Saturday, August 10. Hopefully this year’s production will be met with the same plaudits; but whether or not Edinburgh officially acknowledges it, the NYT cast and crew, under the long-term direction of Amy and Tony Trigwell-Jones and artistic director Robin Strapp, should be incredibly proud of an entirely original production and the dark world of childhood nightmares that they have created.
- First published in the Newbury Weekly News on Thursday, August 1, 2013