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<<  -- 3 --  Roderic Dunnett    REVISITING WITH PLEASURE

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The Little Sweep itself proved a curate's egg. Some aspects, including costumes, looked good. Christopher Jacobsen (Clem) duly outdid Aidan Smith's Bad Bob for unpleasantness, dispensed at the expense of the unusually vulnerable wee Sam (Hugo Docking): 'Chimney sweepers must have boys, just like poachers must have ferrets.'

Aidan Smith and Christopher Jacobsen as Bob and Clem give Sam the Little Sweep a rough time. Photo © 2006 Charlotte Docking
Aidan Smith and Christopher Jacobsen as Bob and Clem give Sam the Little Sweep a rough time. Photo © 2006 Charlotte Docking

The most enjoyable caperings and shenanigans centred upon the wheezes the young members of the family manage to devise to conceal their small nine-year-old charge, in the hope of bringing about his freedom from his cruel taskmasters.

The children think up ever more fangled ways of engineering Sam the Sweep's escape
The children think up ever more fangled ways of engineering Sam the Sweep's escape

Most of the action, directed by Maria Jagusz, Longborough's memorable Hansel from last year (opposite Jane Streeton's Gretel in Alan Privett's staging), who has already done valiant work in developing Longborough's education work by taking opera to inner city schools in preparation for the company's planned Birmingham staging of West Side Story, was simply, but touchingly done, if here and there a bit twee. The washing of Sam was rather stylishly done. Amid the scampering there were enjoyable and thoughtful vignettes from Louise Lloyd as the maid and, in particular, Charlotte Ooi as the housekeeper, and it was the latter's son, Tom Ooi, who produced one of the best younger singing voices in the role of Guy.

Charlotte Ooi (Miss Baggott) with son Tom (as Guy) while the other children look on
Charlotte Ooi (Miss Baggott) with son Tom (as Guy) while the other children look on

Robert Dean coaxed some intriguing sounds from his players: shades of Albert Herring and even Quint's demise from The Turn of the Screw were suggested, and some of Britten's attractive modalism in the vocal and instrumental writing was showed off to good effect. The owl and heron, turtle-dove and chaffinch all contributed; one young family member even had an outrageous laugh like a kookaburra. Longborough's education arm possibly needs a bit more overall punch, the words could (as ever) be clearer and some of the precision of the children in last season's Hansel and Gretel seemed absent; but there was plenty of zippy direction along the way, and this was surely a good toe in the water.

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Copyright © 8 October 2006 Roderic Dunnett, Coventry UK

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