946: The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips at Shakespeare’s Globe
The Globe’s artistic director Emma Rice has delivered an imaginative and original performance yet again. She is a breath of fresh air for the theatre – not to say it lacked fizz and creativity before – but she adds to it, harnessing its creative power whilst adding her own touches. Few people would expect a play based on a Michael Morpurgo book to appear here, but it works.
As with The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk, also performed by Rice’s theatre company, Kneehigh, 946: The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips is beautifully crafted, skilfully incorporating props such as puppets and music. It is a timely play considering Brexit, with clear allusions made between English hostility towards Germans and Nigel Farage’s hate mongering: “We are no Nigel Farage, we’re not going to kill him,” declares the vicar about a German washed up on the beach. The play is fundamentally about accepting those who are different, whether it be evacuees from London or black American troops. Character Lily Tregenza leaves the audience with Martin Luther King Jr’s words – “Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that” – which seem especially pertinent with the growing xenophobia and racial violence in the UK and the US. Rice has done it again; the play inspires wonder and makes the audience think.
Whilst the subject matter is serious, it is not a bleak play. Adults play children, men play women which invariably is a recipe for laughter. Katy Owen is as lively and entertaining a Lily as she was Puck in the latest production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream; Mike Shepherd is hilarious as the grandmother; Ewan Wardrop is particularly entertaining as a seductive Mrs. Turner; and Nandi Bhebhe comes into her own when she begins singing with her soulful voice that fills the Globe. There are few people with as much style and rhythm as Adebayo Bolaji, the Blues Man, who blends American soul and blues with his band into the British home front setting.
Storytelling through music is another element of the play. The Blues Man’s retelling of Operation Tiger is beautifully executed and utterly tragic. Model submarines are placed into bathtubs, flashing lights recreate blasts and the boats are set alight. Instantly the music changes, the lights fade to waves of blue lights that shine down on the stage as characters struggle in the sea. These elements and the puppets are what make 946 original and, in many ways, foreign to what the Globe is used to. If you have not seen any of Rice’s productions and want to watch something different and entertaining, this is certainly the one.
946: The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips is at Shakespeare’s Globe from 11th August to 11th September 2016, for further information or to book visit here.
Watch the trailer for 946: The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips here: