Northern Broadsides are no strangers to the New Vic theatre, so it is great to see them back with their latest production, Quality Street.
Review by Mel Osborne
Originally planned to play before Covid this long awaited show was written by J.M. Barrie and inspired the name of the much loved chocolates. The show is set in Yorkshire where Quality streets have been made since 1936.
Phoebe Throssel runs a school for unruly children on Quality Street. When an old love returns from the war after 10 years, Phoebe is frustrated that she is no longer the free spirit she used to be. She swopped her ringlets for a frumpy cap so she can keep a roof over hers and her beloved sisters head. She hatches what seems like an unconvincing plan to go back to her care free days and somehow tricks him into believing she is her own niece. As with all farces, chaos and mayhem beckon.
Quality street is pure escapist, light-hearted thrively. A delight for fans of regency style plays but missing the highly convoluted language. It is Jane Austen meets Tik Tok and not in a bad way – although based on a play for 1936 it is clear it had been injected with a good dose of modern interpretation.
The play mixes a combination of storytelling styles making it engaging and lively, including puppetry and verbatim theatre. The plot is undeniably silly but if you strip away literal thoughts and just believe in the story it becomes a joy to watch.
When producing the show, past factory workers from Quality Street came along to watch the rehearsals. They loved them that much they included them in the show and the cast play them!
It was so interesting listening to their opinions on how styles of dating have changed from then to now. I felt this style of narrative helped make the show more digestible and subtly explained the social reasons for what would seem like an overreaction to something as minor as a small peck on the cheek.
The cast are clearly a close knit company and worked flawlessly, distracting us from big scene changes with fast paced, lively conversation.
Paula Lane was great fun and comedic as the naïve but fearless Phoebe Throssel and Louisa- May Parker gives a warm, endearing performance of Susan Throssel with wonderful comedic timing.
Northern Broadsides has once again employed a variety of talented actors who were a delight to watch.
Although the play has nothing to do with the chocolates themselves, a nod to their familiar wrappers is noted in the stunning, show stopping costumes.
Under the direction of Laurie Sansom, this is a fun fearless show which is certainly suitable for young teenagers and up. The sweets were apparently named after this play because it was considered as sweet as them.
It is a delightful show, with plenty of laughter and a feel good factor. Don’t take it too seriously and you will enjoy the ride!
(All images Andrew Billington)
Quality Street is at the New Vic Theatre until Saturday 25 March 2023. Tickets and information HERE
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