Category Archive for: ‘Judy Richter’

English troupe brings ‘Amazing Story’ to Berkeley

The wonderfully inventive Emma Rice and her Kneehigh company of Cornwall have brought their “946: The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips” from England to Berkeley Repertory Theatre for its American premiere.

She and Michael Morpurgo have adapted it from a story by Morpurgo set in the English village of Slapton during World War II.

In part it’s the story of a 12-year-old girl, Lily (Katy Owen), and her cat, Tips.

It’s also the story of two black American soldiers, played by Ncuti Gatwa and Nandi Bhebhe, who befriend Lily while stationed in her village when the U.S. military is still segregated.

Finally, it relates a little-known tragedy of the war. The Americans were in the seaside village to rehearse the D-Day assault on Normandy, requiring the entire village to leave.

However, due to an unfortunate mix of circumstances, the American landing craft were attacked by Nazi ships, resulting in the loss of 946 lives.

To relate these plot details does little justice to how they’re revealed through dialogue, music and dance by two musicians and 10 multi-talented actors, all of whom portray several characters.

They also play various instruments. For example, the villagers celebrate the success of D-Day and the promised end of the war in Europe by tooting out a song on soda bottles.

Some of the actors manipulate animal puppets like a dog, chickens and, of course, Tips the cat.

There are lots of laughs along the way such as some of the classroom scenes presided over by Madame Bounine (Emma Darlow). This French woman later reveals that because she’s Jewish, she had to flee her native France to escape Nazi persecution.

Likewise, several of her students had been evacuated from London to escape the Nazi bombing.

The audience gets involved at the start of the second act when it joins the cast in singing “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.” Other songs, some familiar, some by composer Stu Barker, enhance the show.

The dances, choreographed by Rice and Etta Murfitt, are athletic and energetic.

Running about two hours with one intermission, this highly entertaining show seemingly has no limits in its ingeniousness.

“946: The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips” will run through Jan. 15 at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, 2015 Addison St., Berkeley. For tickets and information, call (510) 647-2949 or visit www.berkeleyrep.org.

 

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