The Wizard of Winterbourne
Quaker Meeting House, v40
14:30 (ends 10 August)
⭐⭐⭐⭐ (4 stars)
Newbury Youth Theatre have done it again with their sparky and sparkling new show about the Wizard of Winterbourne, one John Palmer who lived in the village of Boxford in the mid-19th century, and about whom there are many tales, some of which might even be true…
The show is a delight. The audience enters the riot and bedlam of Boxford Fair – hook for ducks! Throw a sponge at someone in the stocks! Bat a rat! I reluctantly declined to participate in these activities, but was delighted to have my fortune told – ‘pick a card, any card’ turned up TEMPERANCE, seemingly a sign of impending doom: a severe allergic reaction to very bad theatre…
I was given a lucky rabbit’s foot to protect me, but this was completely unnecessary: I had a ball as the seven performers dazzled and delighted us with a non-stop romp through some of the weird and wonderful incidents that surrounded John Palmer as he moved through Berkshire.
Rather than reveal all that went on on stage, let me rather pay tribute to the extraordinary versatility of the cast, their athleticism and flexibility, their fabulous facial expressiveness, their magical skills, their musical skills, the wit and, dare I say, wizardry of the script, and the gleeful insistence of one cast member on capital punishment for misdoers – with the impressively rapid suppression of this idea by the rest of the cast.
Was Palmer really a wizard, or an able charlatan who preyed on the credulity of the good villagers and townspeople of that part of Berkshire? Reason might say the latter, but how does that explain the accidents that befell motorists when ‘Palmer’s Post’, an old wooden post with pennies firmly hammered into it, was removed in 1963 to make way for a new motorway…?
This is a delightful, highly entertaining show which displays to maximum advantage the highly professional skills of the current members of Newbury Youth Theatre and their exuberance, vitality, invention and sheer joy in what they were doing. They’re only here this week: don’t miss them!