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Review: Honk! Cotswold Playhouse, Stroud

By thebuzz  |  Posted: January 21, 2013

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SPARKLING wit, funny adorable characters and an infectious chemistry among cast members is a winning combination.

And all three factors were in evidence for the Cotswold Players' first performance of musical comedy, Honk!.

Based on the Hans Christian Andersen story, The Ugly Ducking, there was something to entertain everyone.

Colour, humour, an abundance of wonderful one-liners and fantastic use of lighting and shadow-play are all present.

Add to that vibrant costumes with references to Sixties and Seventies style with platform-shoed swans, bright pink booted geese and Abba-style frogs and you have a highly enjoyable show for both young and old.

I can't decide which scene made me chuckle most. It's a tight call, with a hilarious goggle-eyed frog chorus led by Euan Greig and Tom-cat-Tango leading the bill.

Palatable songs are well performed throughout and save a mention for Jenny Nixon, Keir Kille and Lana Robinson, part of a fine orchestra under the more than capable music directorship of Graham Gill.

The cast, directed by Oliver Lee, with many of them multi-tasking as chickens, geese, turkey, frogs and felines make you feel as though there is a whole farmyard.

But in fact, there are eight adults and four children.

Feathers are ruffled and beaks put out of joint as Ugly, complete with his awkwardness and discomfort – captured well by Joel Gallagher – breaks out of his rather large shell. Confused and rejected, his journey to find his mother takes him into a military-operated wild goose chase, a Hell's kitchen, farmer's net and pond where he rescues a trapped swan – his future wife.

Meanwhile his mum Ida, convincingly played by Janette Deacon, leaves her other four offspring with an apron-clad Drake-with-attitude (Jeremy Keck) facing hours of domesticity to hunt for her lost son.

As a mother duck to five ducklings I realise I am a real-life Ida, waddling ahead with my quintet following in line.

When two of your brood appear on stage as someone else's daughters, it is a surreal moment. Yet Naomi (Downy) and Emily (Fluff) Spiers' performances along with their 'brothers' Tom Gill (Beaky) and Sebastian Newton (Billy) are so captivating, delivering lines and facial expressions with such confidence and panache, they turn from offspring into true actors.

adding their own delightful significance to a fun-packed evening. All four make fabulous froglets too.

Talking about motherhood, Ida is asked, 'Why do we put ourselves through it?' Why indeed? Because despite the moans, whines, sibling rivalry, bickering, squabbling or pecking, the joys of motherhood and little perks to the job make it all worthwhile. It is Ida's reply in the show but any mother would certainly echo it.

Honk! is sheer entertainment which comes with a compassionate plea to embrace and celebrate the differences of others. In fact in an eggshell, it's everything it is quacked up to be.

The show runs from Wednesday until Saturday at 7.30pm, with matinees on both Saturdays at 2.30pm.

Tracy Spiers

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