Theatre Review: Beanfield by Shaun McCarthy

PUBLISHED: 13:56 07 June 2010 | UPDATED: 17:18 20 February 2013

Theatre Review: Beanfield by Shaun McCarthy

Theatre Review: Beanfield by Shaun McCarthy

Belinda Dillon reviews the latest performance at Exeter's Bike Shed Theatre, Exeter. Beanfield by Shaun McCarthy runs until 19th June 2010.

Get down to this great little venue before Beanfield heads off to wow Bristol at the Tobacco Factory at the end of the month.

Tickets 10 (5 on Monday)

The Bike Shed Theatre, St Olaves Close, Exeter EX4 3AT

On 1st June 1985, a convoy of new-age travellers attempted to get to Stonehenge to celebrate the Solstice; their number included families, the collection of buses and vans their homes. Wiltshire police (up to 1,600 officers) set up roadblocks to prevent access to Stonehenge, smashing windows on now stationary vehicles; members of the convoy tried to escape through a beanfield and, after a stand-off, riot police were deployed. Shaun McCarthys new play explores the event and its repercussions including the liberty-suppressing laws that were fast-tracked to deter any kind of peripatetic lifestyle.

In the spirit of the epic subject matter with which it engages social liberty, the right to live how one chooses McCarthys script evokes Shakespeare from the start, the narrator setting the scene and outlining events to come. This narrator reveals himself to be Steamer, our hero, who continues to step outside the action the two main female characters, Annie and Diane, also do, but only at the plays close to comment on what has passed. McCarthys dissection of Thatchers tyrannical rule nods to the early history plays, and the summer setting, as well as themes of freedom and love, allow for many Midsummer Nights Dream references; inveterate nomad Steamer and rich-girl-on-the-run Annie are star-crossed lovers torn asunder by the police rather than parents. In a bower scene, the two pairs of lovers romance in rhyming couplets; ahead of the violent battle, the Chief Constable barracks his ranks with vitriolic blank verse.

The cast move between various roles with consummate ease, from travellers to council officials to police. Eli Thorne puts in an especially terrifying turn as the Chief Constable, and Georgie Rennoldss Diane offers poignancy and humour as the nave local girl caught up in it all. As Steamer, Ben Crispin is an engaging and utterly credible hero, bookending the play in the present an actor to watch with avid interest.

Set Designer Philip Wyatt works wonders with the potentially troublesome space; props morph from convoy wagons to a Birmingham living room to police cells with amazing versatility. The Particular Theatre Company continue to get it right, corralling local talent and producing top-notch theatre.

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