THEATRE REVIEW: Penelopiad ★★★

Blackfriars Theatre, Gloucester
Thursday 26th May 2016

Walking into Blackfriars, a building completed in 1239 and now housed for events such as weddings and theatrical productions just like Penelopiad, we are greeted by members of the cast who water our hands and offer us treats, before we are escorted into the interior of Blackfriars, where we are treated to the first segment of the production from Penelope (Melissa Hornsby), before then being further walked through to sit in a cabaret style seating for the rest of the production.

This production of Penelopiad was incredible, and as first years on the Performing Arts Course at University of Gloucestershire, every single one of the actresses on stage showed huge charisma and potential in their roles, whether they were the many faces of Penelope, or the hilarious gentlemen, right through to all the other characters in this production, because each of them effortless and seamlessly slipped into their roles so elegantly.

The four Penelope's (Melissa Hornsby, Annabelle Miller, Shannon Bartie and Emily Toogood) were all incredible in the role, as they brought so much diction and pronunciation to their words, like they really understood their characters background, with each of them bringing something unique and special to the character then the previous actress before. Bethan Jones beautifully played Odysseus in the production and was an absolute joy to watch on stage as she really owned the role of Penelope's husband in her strong accent that really made myself laugh as she played the male character with such conviction. The rest of the cast also showed creativity and were engaging as well as naturalistic in their roles, such as Sarah Markland as the Beautiful Helen, Victoria Andrews as the loyal servant Eurycleia, and Nia Bowen and Jennifer Williams as The Oracle.

The direction by Fiona Ross was also truly inspiring, really making perfect use of the Blackfriars space, the perfect venue for the dark tale, really coming to life when the acoustic singing of the company was in motion, as it felt incredibly eerie. It was almost magically is well as the sun started setting from outside and the sunset shone through the auditorium as the final moments drew to a close on this incredibly poignant production, that made the whole atmosphere seem so sombre. The whole company should be hugely commended on their passion to drive this story through and keeping the audience engaged throughout, as you could almost be able to hear a pin drop as Emily Toogood closed the show with a heartfelt, powerful, and emotional speech, to end of a fantastic piece of theatre from some incredibly talented students, who will certainly go far if their performances in Penelopiad are any to go by!


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