Review: Put Out The Lights, by Joanna Carrick, Red Rose Chain, Avenue Theatre, until May 27
PUBLISHED: 12:56 11 May 2018
This is the third instalment in Jo Carrick’s engaging Tudor trilogy and the middle episode of the saga. The strength of Jo’s writing is that she can frame history-changing national events and anchor them in a local setting. She shows how Suffolk people lived through and dealt with changing times.
Put Out The Lights takes place between the rise of Anne Boleyn (featured in Carrick’s play Fallen in Love) and the reign of Elizabeth I (Progress). This tells the story of how Bloody Mary tried to turn England back into a Catholic nation after the death of Henry VIII.
Although, the backdrop is epic, the story is very personal. Put Out The Lights is the heartfelt story of three lifelong friends, living in Grundisburgh, trying to make their way in the world. The central figure is the headstrong Alice Driver, a young woman who has just inherited a failing farm from her father.
You quickly realise what an important role religion played in the lives of ordinary people. Alice and her two childhood friends, Alexander and Edward, have a fascination with reading the Bible in English. This was revolutionary. It was the first time that religion had been liberated from Latin-speaking priests.
We first meet the trio as young children playing in a hay-filled barn – energetically brought to life by Ellie Alllison, Charlie Drane and Ted Newborn. The teasing and rough and tumble games cement their relationship and informs future events.
Isabel Della-Porta brings strength, resolve and an engaging naive innocence to the role of the adult Alice while Oliver Cudbill makes Alexander more of a firebrand revolutionary while Ricky Oakley’s Edward is much more pragmatic. He loves Alice more than his religion and is willing to make the compromises necessary to keep her safe. Unfortunately, as history relates, he couldn’t counter Alice’s sense of what is right.
The acting from the whole company is first rate. Jo Carrick’s direction is tight and focuses on building the friendship between the three lead characters.
Rising out of their playful banter is a chilling realisation that it is so easy for innocent people to be radicalised. It’s a theme which gives this period piece a very powerful, contemporary resonance.
Special mention has to be made of Rob Young’s very realistic hay-barn set and Kathryn Thorogood’s stitch-perfect costumes which make it easy to believe you have been transported back to 1558.
A very moving, hugely enjoyable slice of Suffolk history, vividly brought to life by an excellent acting company and a terrific writer-director. Highly recommended.