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Review: Manageable bites of Cromwell in song
“UPON us all, there still lies the curse of Cromwell,” wrote Winston Churchill. What made this son of a country squire still relevant 400 years on is explored in this musical.
Quite ambitious, then, to pack weighty matters of political import into a musical. But South Bucks group Creating Sunshine manage to break history down into manageable bites to bring us a view of Oliver Cromwell and his life and times.
We glimpse Cromwell’s home life, his involvement in the slave trade and piracy, his talent, his brutality in ‘pacifying’ rebellions in Ireland and Scotland which still leaves a bad smell today, his mistress, his clever political astuteness, his fascinating but contradictory character. Above all, we see the deadly potential of unbridled ambition.
But this is a musical, and the action is full of variety centring on various well conceived characters: his lovely, godly wife Elizabeth (Sarah Coope), two family slaves and their lovelife (Michelle Chirenda and Anton John), Charles II (Hugh Dickinson) who loses his head, and many more. In fact there are more than 50 in the cast, from a group of slaves (played by Living Word Ministry group from Slough, who sing beautifully), to the children from Misfitz Performing Arts who quickly change costumes to portray the queen’s or Cromwell’s children or kids in the inn or marketplace. We have courtiers and highwaymen, MPs and soldiers from both sides of the Civil War that Cromwell launched. Their costumes are impressive.
Key characters are Elizabeth and Oliver (Simon Clay), whose relationship develops from a mutal love affair to something much more complicated.
The writing team for this brand new show are Robert Davis (words) and Mark Britton (music), both from South Bucks, who also direct and produce. These two also created the well-received John of Arc musical two years ago. This is very much a community production, with some experienced local performers alongside those fresh to the stage and a splendid back-stage and music team, and their enthusiasm shines through every fast-paced scene.
They can be congratulated on a very successful musical. It continues until Saturday November 10 (8pm plus matinee on Saturday) at Norden Farm Centre for the Arts, Maidenhead, box office 01628 788997. See www.cromwellthemusical.com