Muddy review: Children of Eden at the Harlequin Theatre, Redhill
Ok, so whenever I see a stage production that involves kids – whether it’s in the West End or at my kids’ school – I cry. Most of the time I don’t even know the kids on the stage, so imagine how I might be if my own kids were up there.
Last night it was no different at the opening night of Children of Eden, a production by YESOS, the youth musical theatre group of Redhill and Reigate. I blubbed my eyes out.
Man, these children are flippin’ talented – I was quite awe-struck by the level of professionalism and polish. And yet, there was still something home-grown about it too. These kids didn’t have that stage-school presence that child actors often have. I mean that in a good way. The director Fiona Kuhn-Thompson and her team have kept it real with these kids, bringing out the talent but not the ostentation.
I took my nine-year-old mudlet along. And if she was nagging me before the show about joining a theatre group – well it’s game over for me now. And this is a group I’d be happy for my child to be involved with.
Sixty kids were involved in the show, all aged between 8 and 19 years, and all from schools in Surrey and Sussex. For many of them, the first rehearsal would have been their first real knowledge of the show. Children of Eden only ever had a short run on the West End, although it is due to return to the Union Theatre in London later this month after a 25 year gap.
So, what of the story? Well, it’s loosely based on the Bible, and though my Sunday school classes were a bit paltry, here’s my take. It starts out in the Garden of Eden. There’s the Father (God), and his children Adam and Eve. And while Adam’s more interested in naming the bugs his Father has created (ant, beetle, caterpillar… you get the picture), Eve is questioning and challenging everything around her. Eventually she eats fruit from the tree of knowledge and is banished from the Garden. Adam, whilst torn, goes with her.
Fast forward a few years and the young lovers have two of their own bratlets – Cain and Abel – one a little more bratty than the other. Here the story moves to that of Cain and Abel, and their own desires to find their place in the world.
What I enjoyed from this tale was that, whilst it was heartfelt with clear Biblical themes, it didn’t take itself too seriously – and was funny and very relevant. And the kids got the humour spot on. In many way it was just a story about what it means to be a parent. One of the songs, ‘The Hardest Part of Love’, about letting go, did make me think – and I suppose that’s the point.
The second act moves to the story of Noah and his ark. Again parenthood is a strong theme and Noah is faced with some tough fatherly decisions.
The lead roles double up throughout. Hugh Blayney plays the Father, and Jacob Carter is both Adam and Noah. Charlotte Coe is Eve and Mama Noah. They were incredibly impressive – and I’ve no doubt that careers in musical theatre awaits if that’s they way they want to go. Other standouts were Ewan Murphy as Cain, Alex Moroni as Japheth and Louisa Grinyer as Yonah.
The ending was all warm and fuzzy – and a little blurry for me through welled-up eyes. The show is on until Saturday (with matinees on Friday and Saturday), so if you’re looking for something to do with your own mudlets this less-than-sunny week – I’d strongly recommend it. I can’t promise that your kids won’t come away without their own ideas about a life treading the boards – but there are worse things they could be nagging about.
The Harlequin Theatre, Warwick Quadrant, Redhill, RH1 1NN. Tel: 01737 276 500. harlequintheatre.co.uk