The cast of The Children’s Hour. Picture by Robin Crossley.
STAGE REVIEWTHE latest Apollo production introduces a budding talent, Pille-Riin Kulla.
The Estonian teenager, who has lived in the UK for four years, takes the lead in The Children’s Hour, which runs at the Newport theatre until tomorrow (Saturday).
She plays schoolgirl Mary, who causes mayhem at her boarding school with her bullying, scheming and lying.
The young actress throws herself headlong into the role, portraying Mary as a devious, attention-seeking child-woman, who has no qualms about manipulating everyone around her.
The theme of the play is the negative power of lies, gossip and scandal. By falsely accusing two teachers of lesbianism, Mary destroys their reputations and their lives.
The Children’s Hour was written in the early 1930s by left-wing playwright Lillian Hellman, inspired by a true story. It a challenging play, with a tendency to veer between bleakness and melodrama.
The opening scene starts with seven schoolgirls busy with various tasks, under the supervision of Mrs Mortar (Maggie Cardew), a flamboyant, retired actress. It ends with a heated argument between Mrs Mortar and her teacher niece, Martha (Jane Moore).
The most gripping scene is the confrontation between Mary’s grandmother, Mrs Tilford (Cynara Crump), and teachers Karen (Rebecca Brough) and Martha. Also involved in the fray are Karen’s fiancee, Joseph (Christian Manderfield), Mary herself and her schoolmate Rosalie (Imogen Stone).
Despite a few fluffed lines on opening night, the scene was tightly woven, keeping the audience on the edge of their seats.
The Children’s Hour is directed by Dan Burns, Di Evans and Joe Plumb.