REVIEW: Carpe Jugulum @ People’s Theatre
By Adam Clery on September 20, 2012 in Stage
From a critical perspective, I’m never normally sure how to approach Youth Theatre. I’m never normally sure how to approach anything with prefixed with that word actually – youth clubs terrified me as a child, youth hostels hold more dark memories than I’d care to recount, and youth offenders are the reason I walk all the way to the supermarket instead of popping down the road to my local corner shop for milk.
But I digress. Carpe Jugulum, the latest offering from Newcastle’s People’s Theatre and their much lauded Young People’s Theatre, is a smartly adapted tale of witchcraft, vampires, and various otherworldly beasts and bodmins from Terry Pratchet’s now legendary Discworld series. If you’ve read any of those books, you’ll already be impressed that anyone’s managed to condense it down into something that can be acted out in merely one evening.
Quite an evening it is as well. Well scripted, convincingly relayed, and even that rarest of beasts, some canny pyrotechnics, make it one of the most enjoyable plays I’ve seen in recent times. The cast, primarily scattered with young’ins but backed up with some more senior figures in just the right places, all appear to really have their teeth into the parts (excuse the pun) and the enthusiasm seeps out in every scene.
Normally this is the part where you’re required to use “youth” as a bit of a disclaimer and trot out the old cliches of “well, obviously it’s not great but at least it’s keeping them off the streets” and some such. But aside from the general lack of facial hair, there’s very little else to give away the relative inexperience of those involved. The jokes are smart, the quips well timed, and even the props and set-pieces are deserving of their own round of applause. It’s as professional and grown-up a performance as you’re likely to see.
The subject matter helps with that though, the light-hearted faire (not quite panto standard, nobody’s chucking ghostly custard pies or anything) means that there’s a relaxed feeling to proceedings. Fun for the whole family might be a term that’s had its sadlle ripped off and its head kicked in by the National Council of Overused Theatrical Buzzwords, but it’s still pretty apt here. Your kids will enjoy it, your gran will enjoy it, and you’ll even probably enjoy it too.
Overall then, it’s definitely the easiest “youth” thing I’ve had to approach critically, simply because it’s not using the term as some kind of disclaimer. Thinking about it on its own merits, and just as theatre proper, it’s not found wanting.
- Preview: National Theatre Connections @ Northern Stage