Park Live: Theatre in Devonport Park

By James Bridgwater

Visual Arts Plymouth

Photo Credit James Bridgwater

Heartbreak productions did a series of four plays in Devonport park working with the Soapbox Children’s theatre which is based in the park. They used 3 different sets of actors who are touring the country with their plays but are based in Leamington Spa.

I must admit I’d not have automatically guessed from the adaptation that the first play was The Secret Garden based on the children’s book by  Frances Hodgson Burnett but all the high quality actors gave good performances – including very convincing Yorkshire accents which added to the humour of the production. It also incorporated some puppetry to make the animals come alive including the Robin Redbreast which reveals the location of the hidden garden to Mary Lennox; a spoilt brat orphaned in India and sent to live with an Uncle she doesn’t know in England.

The second play was based on a more adult text being a version of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, but offered homage to other famous writers as the first setting was a writing class being given by Miss Austen who was educating Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Wordsworth and Mary Shelley to be stars of English Literature.  However the improvisation they made soon turned into a version of Jane Austen’s first published novel and showed the subtleties and delicacies of life in Bath in that time. This play was very amusing thanks to the high energy performances by the actors who did Murder on the Terrace by David Kerby Kendall the following evening.
That was the most amusing of the performances and also had the most audience participation as the Inspector regularly took questions from the audience and got some of them to join him on stage for a short quiz. It was about what evidence there was that might help solve the case of the murdered member of the aristocracy and the parrot which was killed too.

Park Live Theatre - Devonport Park

Photo Credit James Bridgwater

Park Live Theatre - Devonport Park

Photo Credit James Bridgwater

The fourth play Billionaire Boy based on the story by David Williams was the best attended and had the best weather being in the afternoon rather than the evening. It started with a sale of possessions by the family who had been very successful in the toilet roll production business but had lost all there money due to wrong decisions and mistaken judgments.
All four plays were very good, well written and well performed and I’m glad to hear the company will be returning next year as a good play in the park while having a picnic or food/drink provide by the Park cafe is a lovely way to take advantage of one of Plymouth’s best parks when things are not happening at the Bandstand which also regularly has events. These are supported by the local community choir and other Plymouth singers and musicians as well as The Friends of Devonport Park.