Only taking to the stage for one night, the performance of Heaven and Hell, the first intercollegiate showcase created by Foot of the Hill Theatre Company is a triumph! Designed as a performance of two halves celebrating many styles of drama, the first half includes pieces that have a heavenly theme and the second half performances that have a hellish theme. Many colleges of Durham were represented by a director, there are ten in total and the cast is made up of 24 people! This performance was done in aid of The Graham Martin Bursary Appeal. The bursary provides a number of young performers support as they embark on their time at Artsed. The entire cast and crew are an inspiration and the performance is a celebration of the arts.
Opening with La La Land’s ‘It’s Another Day of Sun’, from the second the music started playing, you could tell it was going to be a fabulous evening of talent! Packed with energy and joy, the opening performance is a heavenly welcome. Performed by a small group, all captured the upbeat nature of the song. Their vocals are the standout element and all blend together seamlessly. Saachi Bajaj’s powerful vocals shine in this song. Bajaj has a smooth and strong voice which we hear multiple times throughout the evening and it is always a treat.
Soon we were introduced to our host for the evening, Josh Brookin, who would introduce each piece before it started. Brookin is a natural on stage, perfecting comical moments and getting the audience on his side. He brilliantly made the experience interactive, putting a relaxed atmosphere in the theatre. As a host, he is simply fantastic and ensures a smooth running of the entire evening.
We are soon treated to a performance from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The classical tale brought magic to the auditorium. Shannon Hill, Alice Lim, Saachi Bajaj and Emma Clarke playing the four kids capture their playful nature. Clarke playing Lucy showcased her excitement and sweetness perfectly. She captures her amazement at the discovery of Narnia, which only adds to the magic. It is a moving watch. Another musical number was up next performed by Oscar Downing and Nathalie Brown. This song is choreographed brilliantly. Brown’s movements echo the fact Downing’s character is completely obsessed with himself. Brown keeps the laughs coming as she tries to take centre stage but Downing keeps getting in the way. To round off the heavenly half of the performance was Les Miserables’ ‘ABC Café’ and ‘Red and Black’, an incredible finish. The four who performed captured the dark mood of revolutionary France. Al Palmer’s angelic voice shone through and Thomas Rainford’s Marius is well-characterised as a brave and bold man.
As the second half explored more hellish pieces, it is important to note that although both halves had themes that guided the choice of extracts, both acts explored a range of moods, keeping the performance exciting and new. Opening the second act is a selection of songs from Beetlejuice. It was the perfect welcome back filled with power, the song ‘Dead Mom’, is a particular highlight with a number of actors playing the same character. They each add their own interpretation and also have a sense of unity. More classical texts are in Act Two, including extracts from Hamlet and The Crucible are performed with sensitivity and are directed superbly to bring out the intensity within both. Harry Threapleton delivers an impressive performance in Hamlet, setting the tone perfectly.
At times in some numbers, the blocking does appear a little unorganised. Sometimes actors are standing in front of others which can make the stage feel bunched at times. However, this is only a minor point. The showcase also included a devised piece which is hilarious. As a farcical piece, they capture the elements of the genre perfectly as an angel arrives in hell and tries to work their way out, Moritz Afridi as the angel is hilarious! The performances ends on a musical note with a performance from The Prince of Egypt. The vocals are strong and the choreography is brilliant, the moment of baby Moses floating down the river is particularly emotional and beautifully done.
Heaven and Hell is a fantastic showcase. Bringing the colleges together and doing the performance in aid of such a wonderful cause, Foot of the Hill should be extremely proud. It is a fantastic performance. As the first intercollegiate showcase, I hope many more follow.
Image credit: Foot of the Hill Theatre Company