June 18, 2008

All-Greek Epic From the Kings of Cornish Comedy

M iracle Theatre have posted a short film on their recently- revamped website, where it is possible to relive just a few of those fleeting moments of genius for which this Cornish company is renowned.

From The Government Inspector to Hamlet, The Taming Of The Shrew to 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, their achievements in the past few years alone prove, if proof were needed, that London and Edinburgh do not hold a monopoly on mould-breaking drama.

Formed way back in 1979, Miracle are as hard working as they are inventive and original - qualities clearly recognised by the Arts Council when it made the decision to award them a funding package to guarantee their work for the next three years.

As Nick Capaldi, regional executive director of the Arts Council in the South West, said of the company's successful grant bid: "Fundamental to our decision-making is the ambition to support high quality and compelling art - art that excites and inspires, that reaches out and engages. And the arts really must be for everyone - regardless of where you live, whether you've a lot of money to spend or a little, whether you're young or old."

Nick Capaldi is a serious man, who is serious about the arts, so it must follow that Miracle present serious theatre. Well, not quite. Serious comedy is the company's forte, if that isn't a contradiction in terms - and they are deadly serious about creating the sort of performances that appeal to those who appreciate intellectual wit, to those who like to laugh for a full two hours, to those who marvel at the absurdity of their situation, to those who love great storytelling, to the children who squeal at the knockabout physicality.

And in nearly 30 years on the road, their output continues to break new ground. Since the company began life in Cornwall in 1979, they have steadfastly stuck to their mission of presenting two major productions each year, touring them to dozens of venues in Cornwall, as well as venturing up through the country to the Midlands and Wales, where they also enjoy a strong following.

Miracle's work is collaborative, bringing together artists, actors, musicians, writers and makers from around Cornwall to create theatre with a unique comic style, a joyful use of language, and an immediate visual appeal.

At the helm for all these years has been director Bill Scott, whose adaptations of classic stories and scripts display a unique talent.

The cast and crew are currently putting the final touches to their new show - Jason - at their base in the gym of the former Redruth Grammar School. Jason opens at Sterts Theatre, near Liskeard, this Thursday.

With Shakespeare, Jules Verne and Edgar Wallace already having received the Miracle treatment, this year it's the turn of Euripides' tragic drama. The play follows the unlikely hero's quest for the Golden Fleece and involves a perilous journey, bravery, jeopardy, revenge, comedy and a dose of the supernatural. It also brings into focus another element of the story: Jason's love affair with a girl he meets at the furthest end of the world, the sorceress Medea.

"It's a largely devised piece, which is always scary," said Bill, characteristically down-playing his own role in the production. "All of our shows are more or less devised but we do work from a script initially and this has to change as we work. This way you bring out new things, but that inevitably means everything else has to change as a consequence.

"I was trying to think of a theme for a summer show that would be reasonably epic and I started off by just looking back at the historical periods we've tackled in recent years. We've done medieval, we've done Edwardian, we've done sci-fi but until now we hadn't done Ancient Greece.

"When you go through the Greek myths Jason and the Argonauts is obviously a good one because it is so packed with stories. In the end we've concentrated on an episode called 'Jason and the Deer' in which he goes off to get the Golden Fleece and brings back a princess.

"It promises to be the ancient Greek equivalent of a passionate holiday romance."

Set in a dilapidated Greek temple, complete with an impressive 16ft tall column, the action includes bouts of bad weather forecasting, threats from dysfunctional gods, and sirens with halitosis.

The five-strong cast consists of Miracle regulars Rosie Hughes and Sally Crooks, well-known Cornish actors Ben Oldfield and Jason Squibb, and newcomer Charlotte Bister, with Kyla Goodey providing directorial assistance and original music by Jim Carey.

Jason premieres at Sterts Theatre this Thursday (call 01579 362382 to book) and continues at the following venues: Warbstow School, Launceston (June 20); Community Hall, Grampound (June 21); Brannel School, St Austell (June 24); Fairfield, Redruth (June 25); St Mawes Castle (June 26); Pencarrow House, nr Bodmin (June 27); Minack Theatre Porthcurno (June 30-July 4); Godolphin House, nr Helston (July 8); Hatherleigh Festival, Devon (July 13); Tresco Abbey Gardens, Isles of Scilly (July 24); St Mary's Chaplaincy, Isles of Scilly (July 25-27); Lost Gardens of Heligan, nr Mevagissey (July 30); Trelowarren, Lizard Peninsula (July 31); Perran Round, nr Perranporth (Aug 1); Plen-an-Gwary, St Just (Aug 2); Trevarno Gardens, nr Helston (Aug 12); Cabilla Manor, Cardinham (Aug 13); Penlee Park, Penzance (Aug14-15); Restormel Castle, Lostwithiel (Aug 16); Tregrehen Gardens, nr St Austell (Aug 19); Roskillys Farm, St Keverne (Aug 20); Trelissick Gardens, Feock, (Aug 21-23); Carwinion Gardens, Mawnan Smith (Aug 25); Pendennis Castle, Falmouth (Aug27- 28); Carn Marth Amphitheatre, Lanner (Aug 19); Cathedral Green, Truro (Aug 30); Fingals Hotel, Dartmouth (Aug 31). The company will also be visiting Dorset, Somerset and Gloucestershire. For further details visit www.miracletheatre.co.uk

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