Review by Abigail Watkins
As someone going into holes having read the book as a child, I was curious and slighty sceptical to see how the play would handle certain things. Although I didn’t remember much of the story the significant moments that stuck in my mind weren’t easy to imagine translated on stage but from the moment the play started I was impressed by the southern music and puppetry by the cast, (Designed by Matthew Forbes) which helped to establish the setting where our story takes place. I was effectively transported to the south and throughout the piece felt heavily involved in the production.
From the moment we are first introduced to James Backway as Stanley Yelnats, his stage presence and vunerabilty created a likeable character who is easily sympathised with. His comedic montages set to music, assisted by the rest of the cast, and hilarious lines grounded his character. Stanley’s friendship with Zero and the emotions he shows striving to make sure they are both safe were clear and we’ll communicated to the audience.
Zero (Leona Allen)’s range of emotions shocked me, from the frightening nothingness when the character first appears, to the childlike wonder and want to learn to finally the pure joy towards the end of the play. Allen manages to find a certain realism in the characters journey that helps to effectively tell the story.
The rest of the prisoners in the camp, (Joëlle Brabban, Harold Addo and Henry Mettle) created a wonderful group dynamic, and although sometimes harsh, likeable characters. We see the growth and change within the camp as they learn about the mistreatment and release of Stanley, as when there would have once been jealousy, we see clear happiness and understanding. When all on stage together, the ensemble was a joy to watch.
Along with the current setting of the prison, we also see a story set in the old south, of an outlaw who buried her treasure within the lake. Elizabeth Twells who played Kate was incredible, her change from the sweet school teacher with inner strength in a budding romance, to the harsh unfeeling outlaw she becomes after the discrimination her and her boyfriend, Sam face. Sam himself (Ashley D Gayle) was also an impressive actor; his charming personality and calm actions caused an incredibly tender romance with Kate, leaving audiences heartbroken when they see the consequences.
The villain within this segment of the show was Trout Walker, played by Mathew Romain, another actor who was clear in each role he played, from being an sensitive Eyla with big dreams to a harsh Mr Pendanski who struggles to control the children within the camp, his range and believability was good.
The final part of what made the show so enjoyable to use was the impressive set designed by Simon Kenny, the use of the cracked back drop created the effect of the audience looking up out of a hole, feeling trapped too. As well as providing an appropriate setting through every storyline, linking all the stories together. The multi-use of minimalistic props such as the barrels containing the dirt and the water created smooth transitions between scenes. This, along with the effects such as the burning barn and the swing keeps the audience intrigued and invested in the story.
Overall this play, was an impressive family friendly adaptation with interesting set and costuming and talented actors.