Chichester-based playwright Suzie Wilde offers family adventure for the Festival of Chichester.
Jake and The Circle of Death comes from the Funtington Players with Chichester Community Theatre and will be presented for its premiere as a rehearsed reading at St John’s Chapel, St John’s Street, Chichester on Thursday, June 25 at 7pm.
“It was a collaboration originally with Roger Redfarn and is based on the characters I am working with with my story-makers group in Chichester library on Saturday afternoons. Thanks to the Chichester Observer, lots of people were interested in the group, and it has homogenised as a regular group of eight or nine-year-olds, and they won’t let me stop! The whole point is we are doing a book together and they are making decisions about naming the characters and so on.”
Those characters are now ready to go on stage: “Jake is an orphan who has come to live with his grandfather who is his only next of kin, in Cornwall. Jake has been living on board a ship with his parents who were killed by pirates in Somalia. Jake is a very knowledgeable sailor. He is coming up to 12, but doesn’t really know much about other children. He doesn’t fit into the new society. It is all strange to him. In many ways, he is used to adult company. He is not used to being treated as a child, but luckily he is befriended by Harrison – a name chosen by my story-makers. He was Mikey originally, but they changed it to Harrison, and he has a dog called Growler who will be played by a child on the stage. Basically, it is a family play about bereavement, loss and jeopardy. The play is called The Circle of Death because there is this mad magician, a bit like Paul Daniels. His career is on the slide. He is desperately trying to get back on TV. He gets involved in smuggling which Jake finds out about...”
There’s plenty of smuggling going on, but the magician is taking it to the next level: he’s actually smuggling children: “It’s this lovely little Cornish fishing village. It all seems happy on the surface, but underneath, there is this dark subtext. The smuggling has been going on for centuries, but it has now got darker. But they all turn a blind eye. The local policeman is kept quiet with fags. But Jake is making a stand. Jake says it is smuggling that killed his parents. The grandfather is an ex-RN submariner. He likes tight discipline which is why he was estranged from Jake’s dad in the first place. He is just very hard, but his own progress through the play is as somebody that allows himself to worry and to love and allows himself to feel grief for his son’s death.
“The performers are largely drawn from Funtington but also from community players I met during The New Jerusalem with Pamela Howard at Stansted. There are people that trained at Chichester College and are going on to be professional.”
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